This is the story of Buster. His name isn’t Buster, but I need to keep his name private because my story isn’t complimentary. Besides, the name fits him. He was a buster. In high school football he busted through offensive lines like a bulldozer. In baseball he busted baseball after baseball over the home-run fence.

Buster ruled our campus like a gang leader. He was raw and ripped; he had linebacker arms and a tiger snarl. Most of us avoided his orbit. But one Friday night I got caught up in it. Several of us were hanging out in a grocery store parking lot. Buster didn’t like something I said or the way I said it. Emboldened by a belly of beer and a bunch of buddies, he came after me. He shoved me through the open door of a sedan and set out to reshape my jaw. Buster on Max was a grizzly on a squirrel. He pounded my face until some guys grabbed him by the ankles and pulled him off. I climbed out—eyes bruised, pride bruised even more—and walked away with my tail between my legs.

I spent the weekend trying to sort out his actions. What had I done wrong? Should I have fought back? Should I go find him? Was he looking for me? I plotted what I would say to him on Monday. It took some courage, but I mustered enough to catch him in the hallway between classes.

“Why did you jump me Friday night?”

He gave me a crooked, cocky grin. “Oh, I don’t remember. I was drunk.” And he walked off. The explanation hurt more than his fists had. I wasn’t his enemy. I just happened to be the nearest punching bag.

I haven’t seen Buster in decades. But I see his type almost weekly. When the young wife told me about her abusive husband, I thought of Buster. When I read about the kid who was bullied at high school, Buster came to mind. A corporation bought a small business, cleaned house, and fired everyone. Buster.

We all have a Buster. Or two or ten. Mine was a gadfly compared to yours. Your Buster was your dad; he came at you daily. Your Buster said, “I love you,” when you were young and slender and “I don’t want you” when you grew older and rounder. Your Buster flunked you out of spite. Your Buster cheated on you. Your Buster abandoned you.

You’ve been Bustered.

Maybe you’ve moved on. If not, a question needs to be raised regarding your happiness. Resentment sucks satisfaction from the soul. Bitterness consumes it. Revenge is a monster with a monstrous appetite. One act of retaliation is never enough. One pound of flesh is never enough. Left unchecked, grudges send us on a downward spiral.

Your Buster took much. Are you going to let him take even more? Brood at great risk. Is life sweeter when you are sour? Better when you are dour? Of course not.

“It is foolish to harbor a grudge” (Eccl. 7:9 GNT).

Some people abandon the path of forgiveness because they perceive it to be impossibly steep. So let’s be realistic about the act. Forgiveness does not pardon the offense, excuse the misdeed, or ignore it. Forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation. A reestablished relationship with the transgressor is not essential or always even possible. Even more, the phrase “forgive and forget” sets an unreachable standard. Painful memories are not like old clothing. They defy easy shedding.

Forgiveness is simply the act of changing your attitude toward the offender; it’s moving from a desire to harm toward an openness to be at peace. A step in the direction of forgiveness is a decisive step toward happiness.

Max Lucado, How Happiness Happens: Finding Lasting Joy in a World of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019).

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