If you are ever confronted with an opportunity to help someone who once hurt, humiliated and belittled you…take it. It is one of life’s greatest privileges!

The girl had heard by that time that things were working out well for me. Despite what must have been an exceedingly great embarrassment at the very thought of my cousin approached me for help. The girl was desperate enough to put aside her pride.

Not only did I pay for her to begin her accounting program (which she subsequently earned a degree in ), but years later, after she’d been working for a while without promotion, I encouraged her to take the chartered accounting exams: a mandatory specialization process for every accountant in Nigeria which wishes to progress up the ladder of their career. I paid for that, too. Essentially helping her to gain what was, in effect, her masters.

If you are ever confronted with an opportunity to offer help to someone who once hurt you and made you feel small and insignificant, take it. It is one of life’s greatest privileges!

Of course, some family members had something to say when they knew that I was helping Aunty’s daughter. While some fumed at my cousin’s ‘audacity — ‘considering what her mother did to you’ — others wondered where her mother found the ‘conscience’ to allow a child of hers to accept help from me, a child she had ‘mercilessly’ maltreated, called worthless and said would never amount to anything even worth mentioning. A few wanted to know where I found the ‘grace’ to offer help to ‘anyone from that house!’

I understood their anger. And tried to explain why I was ‘so forgiving.’ I told them that, first of all, it takes guts to do what my cousin did, to come to me of all people for help. That kind of courage deserved to be honoured. Secondly, and most importantly, I told them I did it for God. God? They were sceptical. Reading this, I am sure you probably are, too.

But let me explain.

It takes grace to forgive someone who once wronged you mercilessly, and SUPERNATURAL grace to do good to that someone!

Hard as some might find this to believe (even I sometimes do), I did not hate them, Aunty and my cousin, despite all they had done to me. I wouldn't say I liked their actions, for sure, but I held no grudges against them, nor did I wish them ill. Does this make me a perfect person? No. It makes me grateful. It takes a special kind of grace to endure what I did without becoming bitter and hate-filled. There is no other explanation for the complete lack of ill-will in my heart for my uncle’s wife and her children. For this reason, I call myself highly favoured, and my life…privileged.

I am privileged to have been spared the kind of destruction that a bittered, gunning-for-revenge life would have brought about had I not forgiven my uncle’s household. That kind of grace could only have been godsent. Before my sojourn to Lagos, my grandmother had instructed me to call on her God if I was ever fearful. That was precisely what I did. Unceasingly. Everyday. As I crawled under the bed, my mouth muffled with a piece of rag so no one would hear, I whispered ‘Abasi Nne’mi, mbok nwam nyien,’ God of my grandmother, please help me. I didn’t really understand the magnitude of my prayer. I was a child who had been taught the importance of obedience from an early age. So I was obeying my grandmother’s instruction. Apparently, that mattered very little to my grandma’s God because He must have heard me. Because not only did He grant the wishes of that little girl, He added something extra — the greatest of blessings: a pure and forgiven heart towards my uncle’s household. And so, instead of hate, I was filled with compassion. They say a curse causeless is curseless. By the same token, a curse will hit its mark if its cause is valid. When I prayed, I didn’t ask God to punish my uncle’s household; I just asked Him to bless me. I asked Him to bless me so I could one day afford to refuse food that was not to my taste without having it poured all over me. I asked Him to bless me so that I could one day have the ability to decide what I wanted or didn’t want to eat. At that point, that was one of the issues paramount to my young mind: I was often verbally and physically maltreated for refusing to eat a dish that I didn’t like. I didn’t want to have to face the same problem in my future life.

When I think about where I am today to where I was yesterday — which I frequently do — I cannot help but think of Psalm 23, verses 5–6 of The Holy Bible.

‘…You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely, your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…’

I had lived to see that Psalm come true in my life — in a truly awesome way. There is no better (or more tremendous) honour than that. Mine is indeed a privileged life. And so why seek revenge on Aunty or any of her children? Could any personal act of self-righteous retribution possibly be more significant than the table of bounteous goodness God saw fit to lay for me in the presence of my uncle and his household? According to a famous saying of my land, ‘constructing a bow to kill an animal that is already dead is the ultimate sign of foolishness — a clear indication of a young, unseasoned mind.’

Still, forgiving is not easy. Doing good to someone who has wronged you is doubly tricky. However, if you take nothing else from this book, please, take this. If you are ever confronted with an opportunity to help someone who once made you feel as though you were not good enough to wipe the dust off the heels of their shoes, take it! Not with a see-how-the-mighty-have-fallen attitude, but with humility, understanding and gratitude. For such an opportunity is one of life’s greatest privileges!

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Sarah Udoh-Grossfurthner

FROM FEARFUL TO FIERCE: the true-life story of a woman who was abused, bullied and told she would never amount to anything of worth.