Are You a Hatfield or a McCoy?

Okay, did anyone else watch the epic miniseries on the History Channel two weeks ago? (If you didn’t, don’t worry; I’ll be careful to speak generally about the story in case you have it recorded for later viewing!) I must confess that I had no idea the Hatfields and McCoys were real people until watching this show. Go on, you can laugh… Yes, I was a history major and part of the History National Honor Society, and I taught U.S. History in public schools for 2½ years. It’s a tragedy! I never imparted to my students the saga of these two families, who were bent on destroying each other!

(I would have, though, if I’d known about them. I really liked teaching history, because I could weave in life lessons like nobody’s business and start up all kinds of discussions on ethics. Tell me I can’t witness to my students in public school! You just have to be creative.)

In case you didn’t know, these two families engaged in an ongoing feud that spanned several decades following the U.S. Civil War. This feud, as it was passed down generations, cost many lives. In the miniseries, “Devil Anse” Hatfield (Kevin Costner) referred to it as another civil war, and it absolutely was.

In the end, one of the men who “started” the feud had grown and learned much from his tragic mistakes. He made his peace with God and tried to make peace with others. The other man was so consumed by bitterness and anger over the wrongs done to him that he let it tear apart his family and ultimately kill him. Not just figuratively, either; his bitterness really did kill him.

So which are you? To avoid spoilers, we won’t name which is which, but is your heart full of bitterness or bent toward forgiveness? What about that one big thing — that one thing that someone did to you that is so unforgivable? Are you still letting them hurt you by not letting it go?

There’s a quote I love, and it’s been attributed to various people. I’ll just paraphrase it, and you can Google it if you want to try and figure out who really said it. The idea is this:

Keeping bitterness in your heart is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. 

Trust me when I say that it doesn’t work. Literally or figuratively.

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