A grudge is a heavy thing to carry. It can have serious consequences not only for those involved, but also for innocent bystanders.
One of the Godliest men I know is the victim of grudge-carrying. Like many who answered the call to go to Vietnam, he developed a drug habit. For years he enslaved himself to heroin. Nothing in his life was as important as getting that next fix. Because of his lifestyle, he caused a lot of hurt to his family.
Some 25 or 30 years ago, someone at Union Gospel Mission led this man to Jesus, and he was marvelously born again. He wanted to put his drug addiction behind him and be the person Jesus would have him to be, but unfortunately, he was still addicted to the heroin.
For the next dozen years or so, he bounced back and forth between sobriety and addiction. He would go for months at a time not touching drugs, but then the addiction would rear its ugly head and draw him back in.
It was during this period that I really began to get to know the man. I’d known his father and his older brother and sister since before he was born, and I knew him as he grew up, but not well. I was much closer to his older brother. He was just a kid who happened to live in the same house with them.
He and my little sister, who was also a drug addict, somehow remained in touch through the years, and she invited him over to my home while she was visiting me. This was during his up-and-down period.
He joined my church, and I would see him at church frequently, but I would also go for months at a time not seeing him. As I learned later, these periods when I didn’t see him were when he had relapsed with his drugs.
About seventeen years ago, he kicked his heroin habit once and for all. I came across him about that time, and we began meeting weekly to share meals. He was a fairly new Christian—maybe I should say one who hadn’t grown much as a Christian—at this time, so I took him under my wing and began to disciple him. I know from our regular meetings that he has been off heroin and growing in his relationship with God all these years.
Sadly, his family gave up on him before he conquered his drug habit. None of them wanted anything more to do with him. They acted as if he no longer existed. None of them know the fine, sober Christian he has become, because they let their unforgiveness build a wall between him and themselves.
This week his older sister went to the grave bearing this grudge against him. She had so thoroughly turned her kids against him that he wasn’t ever listed as a relative in her obituary. This really bothered me when I read it.
I was never very close to this sister, since she was seven years older than I, but I’ve known her practically all my life. When I was two years old, she saved me from getting into a busy street where I probably would have been killed. I’ve always felt a lot of gratitude toward her because of that, and that made her attitude even harder for me to deal with.
It hurts me that her lack of forgiveness prevented her from having a relationship with her brother. She passed that feeling down to her kids and grandkids, cheating all of them out of the opportunity to know the wonderful man I know him to be. He still has the older brother I was close to growing up, as well as a younger brother and sister, but none of them know him.
God has given me the heart of a peacemaker. I’d love to be able to bring peace to this family, but I don’t know how. This man carries the burden of being an outcast, but the rest of his family carries the burden of having deprived themselves of fellowship with him. I think I hurt more for them than I do for him. He has found peace through his relationship with God. I don’t know what they’ve found.
Do you have any broken relationships with (former) friends or family members? What steps have you taken to heal those broken relationships?
WANA: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
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Our mutual friend is doing well. His deep faith and support from his friends have enabled him to regain a meaningful life. May God continue to bless and strengthen him.
Thanks, Sharon. I’m sure he appreciates your support.
Thanks for writing this particular blog, David. I feel very much as you do … and I also understand Karlene’s points. It is too bad that the shunning continues …. though it is understandable. You and I can talk more about this next week when I’m there …. I also felt sad when I noticed that his name was omitted from the obituary.
Thanks, Barb. It’s just a sad situation.
David, Forgiveness is one of the key elements to a healthy and happy life. When we don’t forgive, we are only hurting ourselves. But there may be more than what’s happening in the dynamic of their lives. Drug addiction, as you know, takes lives. Far before the death from drugs will. So sometimes when families have done everything they can…and feel they are condoning by assisting and everyone says let him hit bottom…they have to push away. Sometimes they have to push away to save themselves. That 17 years (and others) that you were not involved, as he disappeared during episodes, I am sure his family knew, watched and could not bring that into their lives. Sometimes walking away is the easiest and only way to save yourself. You cannot save the drug addict. They need to want it. Is it sad that the sister did not get to see him sober? Of course it is. Is it sad that the kids and grandkids don’t know him? Of course. But the ups and downs and ins and outs of this sickness… it was safer to protect the family from that behavior than bring that behavior into their lives. As a mother, I would want to protect my children too. I get it. Is is sad that “he” lost his family because of the lifestyle he chose? Absolutely. But now I think it’s time for you and your friend to forgive those that did the best they could under the circumstances.
Thanks for your comments, Karlene. We have both forgiven them. We just think it’s sad they can’t even listen to the possibility that he’s changed.
I mentioned that my younger sister was a drug addict. Everyone in my family – except my mother – quit enabling her, but we never shunned her from the family.
That’s nice that you were able to keep the sister in your life. I guess we all deal with things differently. I suspect the fact your mother enabled her and kept her in the family was probably why you never shunned her and remained connected…thus you had the connection. When a parent stops contact and pulls away, usually the kids not in the dysfunction will follow. Not right, just understandable, and forgivable.