Episcopal Service Corps and the Art of Forgiveness
Written by Natalie Vanatta
Life Together alum and ESC national board member
I will be completely honest with you, growing up I was a bit of a grudge holder. Any feelings of injustice I felt I had endured from my sister or parents would be stored away only to resurface in future arguments as proof that I had been the victim all along. In fact, often this grudge holding or lack of forgiveness was in a direct effort to get more sympathy and attention as a child. I would like to report that as I grew older this trait dissipated and I became someone who was quick to forgive. However, forgiveness, like prayer, should be a daily practice and to this day I am still working on both.
Despite this, the beautiful thing about getting older is that you begin to experience life and relationships that help you shape and change for the better. Thankfully, I have been incredibly lucky to have had amazing opportunities for growth and even more amazing people to help show me real life examples of how to be a better person. Not the least of both of these was my year as a Life Together Fellow.
Nothing will teach you more about the need for swift and complete forgiveness than spending a year living with seven other people and working at an inner city after school program all the while making next to no money. In this week’s gospel, Matthew speaks about the importance of prayer, giving of alms, and fasting being done in quiet and for the sole purpose of strengthening one’s relationship with God. Being a Life Together fellow helped me realize that forgiveness should be given in much of the same way. It should not be some sweeping declaration announcing to the world that you are the bigger person, “Hey everyone! Come see how much forgiveness I can give!” Rather, forgiveness should be quiet, thoughtful, and personal. This is the only way it can really stick and have meaning. At least that is how I have grown to understand forgiveness. My roommates in my year with Life Together taught me this more than anyone. I witnessed true conflict matched with true forgiveness on more than one occasion in our house and each time I learned how I might be a more caring, compassionate, and forgiving presence myself.
It sounds utterly cliché, but the year I spent in the Episcopal Service Corps has been one of the most formative and influential in my life thus far. That year provided me with the realization of just how little I knew about myself and the world. But in a good way. I am happy to report that these days I am feeling much lighter and fulfilled in my personal relationships. A big part of that has come from my ability to forgive. Though, I could probably be better when it comes to my sister. Lindsay, I swear I am working on it.