One summer I was at a gathering of old high school acquaintances when someone behind me tapped me on my shoulder. As my eyes drifted over the woman’s name tag, my mind drifted back in time. I remembered a tightly folded note that had been shoved through the slot on my locker. It had contained cruel words of rejection that had shamed me and crushed my spirit. I remember thinking, Somebody needs to teach you a lesson on how to treat people! Although I felt as if I were reliving my adolescent pain, I mustered up my best fake smile; and insincere words began coming out of my mouth.
We began to converse. A sad story of a difficult upbringing and of an unhappy marriage began to pour out of her. As it did, the words “root of bitterness” from Hebrews 12:15 popped into my head. That’s what I’m feeling, I thought. After all these years, I still had a deep root of bitterness hidden within me, twisting around and strangling my heart.
Then these words came to my mind: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
We talked. We even shared some tears. Neither of us mentioned the long-ago incident. God taught someone a lesson that afternoon—a lesson of forgiveness and of letting go of bitterness. He taught it to me.