by Faith Reboot’s Tanisha Henderson
She loved all of her 10 grandchildren for the best of them while never shying away from pointing out the worst in them. One of the vices she pointed out to me was my tendency to hold grudges. On the day that she shared some treasured advice with me, we were doing what we did a lot together. We were playing a 2-player game of solitaire while watching TV and chatting. Prompted by only the Holy Spirit, she said to me, “Baby, we don’t hold grudges with family.”
Simply stated, yet the impact was complex.
I have a cousin who is 9 months older than me. His mother also became pregnant as a teen, so he lived in the same house with me and my grandma and our mothers. Cousins by blood, siblings by life’s circumstances.
My grandma played a significant role in raising me. Since my mother was a teenager and had to work many hours to support my brother and I, the majority of my time was spent with my grandma.
*She wasn’t perfect…but her ease and dedication to sharing all of her imperfections made her perfect to me.
*She worried… like that time she looked in my eye and asked me if I had been molested.
*She cared… like that time she kissed a teenaged me on the cheek when she thought I was asleep.
*She guided… like that time she lived with me for two weeks after my first child was born.
Needless to say, we disagreed a lot. Fighting was not allowed in my home, punches with words nor with balled up fists. So my cousin/brother and I fought the only way we could, through the silent treatment. We would go days without acknowledging each other’s presence. So when my granny stated this, I knew exactly who and what she was alluding to. We didn’t discuss it any further. I looked up from my cards when she dropped that gem. That five second stare full of blaring silence was enough to get her point across. Matter of fact, during our games of solitaire, no topic was off limits and we would just jump from one subject to the next, as easily as flipping a card over. I loved it, I loved her.
I can’t say I immediately forgave my cousin/brother and never held a grudge against him again in my youth, but I can tell you that from that day on I thought deeply about my bitterness. It weighed on me heavily to know my granny had warned me against this, so I didn’t want to disappoint her by continuing in it anyway. To me, that would be equivalent to saying that I didn’t value her words or her experience or her wisdom. And I did. Her openness with me kept me from ever closing myself off to her advice. I wanted to honor the quality time spent with her by living out the quality words she deposited into me.
Now, I teach my children the same lesson.
In my home, we are quick forgivers. My children are trained to say, “Sorry” when they have hurt someone and the injured party is trained to reply with the words “I forgive you” followed by a hug. They do it easily. They witness it happening between mother and child when I am the one who has done the hurting. They have built up a habit of keeping short accounts and I pray that it will follow them into their adulthood, their marriages, their work relationships, their worldly interactions, and then on to my very own grandchildren.
And now, I live out this lesson with my faith family.
Have I been hurt by people in the church? Of course. Is there a temptation for me to withhold forgiveness from my brothers and sisters-in-Christ? At times, yes. The flesh is weak. Oh, but the spirit is more than willing. My grandma’s words still storm into my thoughts when the whirlwind emotion of holding a grievance brews in my heart. The Holy Spirit then calms that storm and reminds me that to lose attachment to fellow believers is to lose a part of the body. If I value my feelings over God’s commands, then I value myself more than I value my God. In those moments, I am battling with an inflated sense of self and deflated appreciation for who I am in Christ. Holding on to anger at a person who has hurt me affirms my old identity as once being a sinner. Letting it go by relying on grace alone confirms my new identity as forever being in Christ.
Even now, I am steadily learning to live out this lesson with the world. Colossians 3:13 commands me to “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Paul’s heart was so tender toward unbelievers because he seemed to always see his own sin first and see himself as sinned against as a last and fleeting thought. When I remember that unbelievers, just like believers, are incapable of thinking, doing, or loving perfectly at all times… I then learn to see the best in people while also praying that God will use me or someone else to point them to God’s best for them. And since we are all image bearers of the same Father God, we are all family. In honor of my granny’s legacy, I won’t hold grudges with family by blood, family made possible through Jesus’ blood, or family created by way of God’s creativity.
From now until I see her again, my grandmother’s wise words will bolster me on to freely give mercy to others just as I have fully received mercy from God thru Jesus. Amen.