Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Bitterness and Unforgiveness

Posted in bitterness, Christianity, grief by Kathy on January 13, 2008

Yesterday, I was able to let go of bitterness and unforgiveness I have harbored for 9 years exactly. I was bitterly angry at a woman whose name I didn’t even know, and knew almost nothing about her, except I blamed her for at least partially causing my father’s death.

Let me explain. On Jan. 11, 1999, my dad was in a one-person car wreck, driving on a very familiar stretch of road. There was no reason it should have happened–the day was clear, the road was curvy but this particular stretch of road was straight, but for some reason, he went off of the road, flipped the car, and was thrown clear and died of massive head trauma. It still hurts me to say that; I’ve tried to forget it, or at least not think of it too much. Of course, that first week, month, and year, it was about all I could think about, but I tried to shove it way deep down in my brain so that I could go on with life. So what did this woman have to do with the wreck? Maybe nothing. But my family had the suspicion that she had pulled out from her driveway onto the road, causing him to swerve to miss her. She said that she saw the wreck, but did not get out onto the road. I never knew her name, but my sister knew of her and said she was a druggie, and was probably lying. So for the past nine years, I’ve despised this nameless, faceless woman for causing my father’s death.

But the reality is that she didn’t–even if she did start to pull out in front of him, what killed him is that he didn’t wear his seat belt. He was driving a Mercedes; and though it was flipped and totaled, the body of it survived excellently well, and he probably would have walked away with hardly a scratch, had he worn his seat belt. But he refused to do it. And I’ve wanted to blame somebody other than him for his death. Oh, I’ve acknowledged that this was the main fault, but I still held on to bitterness. I even felt like I couldn’t let it go, but that is false.

In reading The Power of a Praying Wife, a book that was written 2 years before my father died, I was brought to the crushing reality that I had to forgive this woman. The strange thing is, there was hardly anything in the book that should have brought this point to my mind–and maybe it was mostly that Friday was the 9th anniversary, and it mixed in with some other things in the book. The book begins with the need for me (as the wife) to change, and be what God wants me to be, before He starts working on my husband; so I guess I was primed for introspection in this area too. So, about half-way through the book, she is discussing bitterness, and although she was mostly talking about how women tend to become bitter towards their husbands, and also how husbands can be bitter towards others in their lives, I was brought to realize that I was bitter. I didn’t like that, and wanted to deny it, or justify it. But I thought, if that woman is now a Christian, I would be commanded to forgive her for Christ’s sake; and if she’s not, I still must forgive her, because I have been forgiven much. So I cried and I prayed, and asked for God to help me to forgive her–because I still didn’t want to, and since the habit had grown for so long, I wasn’t sure I could even do it.

I felt better afterwards, and realized that I had given up that bitterness. But this morning when I woke up, I realized that I felt different inside. It was amazing. I didn’t even realize how the bitterness had affected me until it was gone. There are certain physical maladies that are like that–maybe a lingering cough after a cold, constipation, sore muscles–you don’t even realize just how bad you were feeling until one day it’s gone, you feel normal again, and wonder how you could have lived like that for so long. It’s like this bitterness that I had allowed in my heart was a magnet, and as I walked along life’s path, it picked up every rusty nail and all sorts of scrap metal, and it was just weighing me down and making me dirty inside. And now it’s gone!

Praise God! I’m free!!