A few months ago, I watched an interview program with a former Olympic ice skater. Caught up in a skating scandal more than 20 years ago, this woman was forced to resign from the U.S. Figure Skating Association and withdraw from all competition. She was left with a felony conviction, steep fines, community service responsibilities and probation. At 23 years old, this young woman lost her livelihood, any and all plans for endorsement deals and a bright, prosperous future.
Now at 47-years-old, she appears much, much older than her actual age. Public humiliation is the likely culprit for her premature aging. Upon hearing her full story though, one possible reason for her haggard appearance could be due to a lifetime spent harboring bitterness and unforgiveness toward her mother.
She credits her athletic downfall to her difficult childhood. She places much of the blame on her alcoholic mother whom she has yet to forgive and wants nothing to do with. Her hatred was quite palpable, practically spitting through the air waves into my living room.
This athlete may have gained physical or emotional strength for surviving her upbringing on “the wrong side of the tracks,” but it appears to have come at a cost. Her unresolved bitterness seems to have robbed her of more than outward beauty. Her unfolding story gave little indication that she’d lived a peaceful or joy-filled life.
Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
It’s fairly impossible for us to know what another person has suffered until we’ve walked in their shoes. No doubt this Olympian suffered much. Her story haunts me, moving me with compassion and prayer on her behalf. Hopefully she will eventually realize that forgiveness is rarely for the person who has hurt us, but rather for our own self-preservation and peace of mind.
Bitterness and unforgiveness will eventually eat away at the fabric of our soul, stealing the joy from our heart and robbing us of a better life. Over time, unresolved anger and buried pain has the ability to make us old before our time.
Are you hurting and having a hard time forgiving someone? Why not take your pain to God and give it over to Him?
Don’t end up as a bitter beauty … “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.