"Holding a grudge is letting someone live, rent-free, in your head."
I love that. I have no idea who originated it, but I love it.
Anyway, I've been struggling for several years with a family grudge that I can't seem to shake. This grudge has seriously been ongoing since I was in grade school.
My older sister and I simply never got along growing up. She's extremely bright, pretty, and extraordinarily hardworking. She's a born people-pleaser, and she's always been super obedient regarding my mother. So growing up, I always felt as if, compared to her, I wasn't as smart, I was definitely gawky and pretty much "bad" (due to my complete lack of regard for obedience).
Anyway, she had her own insecurities as well. I, too, am pretty smart, and never studied the way she did (heck, I rarely studied at all). I wasn't as pretty, but due to my more bubbly personality, I had more boys calling. And though I'm also a born people-pleaser, I was much more rebellious and forced my mother to accept my freedom whereas my sister accepted the gilded tower without complaint. As a result, there was discord... lots and lots of discord.
I think when I was born, she was expecting the golden little sister who would want to be just like her and do all the cool stuff she did. That never happened. I always steered more towards my brother, and I think that irked her. I also always seemed to have more freedom / less stress and that probably seemed very unfair to her. Finally, I was a cocky little sonofagun, and considering her rightful place as smartest, prettiest, and oldest, I really had no right to act in the manner I did (at least in her mind... okay, probably in everyone's mind).
As a result, I think it became her mission to make my life hell. She'd constantly nit-pick at everything I did, report my failings to our mother (true or made-up, mind you), belittle me, or flat out lie to folks about me. This went on from at least 4th grade straight on through until present day. I rarely paid her any attention because I realized that she was miserable and jealous for no valid reason.
While engaged to be married, she'd be on the phone telling folks how stupid I was for getting married, how much of a awful person I was for causing my mother so much grief, blah, blah, blah. Seriously. As if I couldn't hear her on the phone while I was up in my room. *Shakes head*
Even so, I ignored it and would just steer clear of her. I think that grated on her nerves, too, because she wanted to feel vindicated in her anger. She wanted to know she was irritating me, but I simply didn't care enough most of the time. Her opinion never mattered to me. Ever. Still doesn't, actually, but that's mostly because I'm of the mindset that the only opinions that really matter are mine, my husband's and my mother's (and folks like K, M and F).
Annnnywho, I was able to steer clear of her pretty darn well until recently. Specifically, my pregnancy and subsequent delivery of Vincent. Throughout my pregnancy, I never once got a "Congratulations" out of her. Never once did she acknowledge her nephew's existence. Worse, when I called my mother in a panic about the possible miscarriage of Vincent, she almost seemed happy about it. The fact that I can hold that thought in my head about my own sister turns my stomach. How much hatred can seriously be in her heart that there is even a remote possibility a seed of happiness over the death of a child could reside there?
She missed his Baptism, she didn't attend his 1st birthday, and during holidays when I had to go over my mother's house (where my sister still lives), she would completely ignore Vince. Worse, she'd roll her eyes any time someone would fawn over him, or leave the room in a huff. How sickening is that? At Christmas, Vince was only 3 months old. I forced her to hold him for the first time. She didn't even want to hold him. I gave him to her anyway, and she promptly turned him away from herself on one knee, and texted to someone with her free hand, never once paying him any attention.
So here's where my grudge jumps in. I never really cared about what she did to me. Now she's poking Momma Lion, though... and has been for the last three years (Vince is 2 plus the 9 months of pregnancy). I attempted putting it all on the table, hashing it out with her like an adult, but she couldn't even handle a normal conversation. I requested that my mother attempt talking sense into her, but to no avail. Even my brother, appalled by her treatment of Vincent, has attempted talking to her. Still to no avail. I think that's because Vince represents everything that was supposed to not only be hers, but be hers FIRST. I, the bad seed, wasn't supposed to have the great husband, wonderful home and beautiful child. At least not until she had paved the way first.
I've reacted poorly and angrily with this grudge. I've been praying hard on it. I need to forgive and forget, but every time I think I've made progress regarding her, the anger flares up and I have images of punching her square in the face. The thought of her mistreating my son makes me want to rip her heart out and feed it to a bear. She treats her other neices and nephews exactly as the perfect "fun" aunt would. But my son? Barely a "hello," and ONLY because my mother forced it from her lips to keep the most basic pretense of peace.
It makes me sick that one day, and probably very soon, I will have to explain to him why his aunt treats him so differently from his cousins. He's going to think her disdain for him was somehow caused by something he did. How can he understand the 20 odd years of depression, low self-esteem and jealousy from her? He's going to internalize this and think he is at fault for something, and that drives me up a wall. I get SO angry at this thought, and I don't know how to forgive when it's doubtful she even sees anything wrong with her behavior.
And the fact that most people in the family allow her to treat him in this manner boils my blood. If she were to do this to ANY OTHER CHILD, hell would open its gates and swallow her whole. But because it's my child... because it's Gina's little boy... it's somehow OK. Why? Oh, because Gina and Evelyn have been doing this for years. Let's not bother doing anything now considering they're both adults and should work it out on their own.
I'd love to, and have tried, but I'm not a miracle worker. I can only work with what I've got, and what I've got is a brick flippin' wall submerged in rebar.
My wonderful spiritual director, who has seen first hand how ridiculous the situation has been all these years, gave me some great advice which has really helped me along the path of forgiveness. Knowing that this grudge and unforgiveness were sinful and a result of angry pride, I wanted to rid myself of them. I wanted to be more Christlike and extend love as opposed to anger. But this particular grudge... it just wasn't allowing me wiggle room.
She said something brilliant, though. She said, "Offer your unforgiveness to Jesus and ask Him to return it to you as forgiveness." At first, I was like, "What? I don't want to offer Jesus something crappy like the sin of holding a grudge!" But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I kept saying, "Okay, Jesus... I can't forgive her. The thought of forgiving her makes me angry in and of itself. So take my brokeness and fix it for me. Take my inability to forgive her and patiently show me how it's done. You're the Master-whiz at this whole forgiveness stuff, so show me how it's done."
For months now that's been a prayer of mine. I can't say that I've truly let go of the grudge, but it's certainly gotten much lighter to carry around. I've let go of a lot, and I'm determined to not only be civil, but generously charitable in her presence. I haven't taken that charitability out for a test drive since she's never around when I go to my mother's house, but when the opportunity presents itself, I do plan on giving it a go in the hopes that I can put some virtues into practice as a thanks to Jesus for teaching me how to slowly, but surely, make progress with this.
I've also been able to pray peacefully for her. At first, I wasn't very nice in my prayers... I said them meanly... not really wanting her to benefit in any way. I only included her in my prayers because I knew Jesus would shake His Head at me for being so prideful. But now I can honestly say that I include her freely and happily. I hope my prayers have positive intercession for her, if not now, then at some point in the future. I have hope that if Jesus can convert my heart (kicking and screaming), He can do the same for hers, too, and that one day she might see Vincent and treat him like she would the other children in her life.
So while I've got a long, hard road ahead of me with this, I'm thankful for the progress Jesus has gently pushed me to make. Prayer really is quite powerful. Even the prayers we first make grudgingly... ha ha.