whitehall 2In 1901, Mr. and Mrs. Jessie Coogan purchased a mansion in the very exclusive section of Newport, Rhode Island. They paid $200,000 (equal to about $2,000,000 today) for the gorgeous mansion called Whitehall. The wife, Harriet Gardener Lynch before her marriage, was from a prominent and wealthy New York Family. She married James Coogan, a Bowery merchant and local politician. As a result of these unimpressive credentials, the family was considered a brash upstart when they moved into the elegant neighborhood.

After 10 years, the Coogans felt they had “paid their dues” and should be considered a respectable member of the community. So, on June 16, 1910, they gave a lavish coming-out party for their daughter Jessie.

Newport’s finest shops fitted them fabulously for the occasion. The orchestra tuned their strings and waiters were stationed everywhere to serve the movers and shakers who had all been invited.

The doors were opened at 7 p.m. By 8 p.m., no one had arrived. Nine, 10 and 11. They waited till midnight — until it became apparent that no one was going to show. The enraged mother was so angry that the entire family moved from Whitehall and determined to “get even.” For 35 years, all that happened to Whitehall was that the taxes were paid.

The once-elegant estate became a crumbling, devastated house. Finally, it was the town eyesore — the sweet revenge for the humiliation and rejection she had experienced. Eventually, in 1945, her son, moved by the pleas of the Newport residents, prevailed upon his mother to have the house razed.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Coogan retreated from the world after her husband’s death in 1915. Few of her 15 grandchildren ever saw her. She lived in the Biltmore Hotel until her death in 1947 at the age of 86.

The one dominating emotion that controlled her life was bitterness. Can you imagine how many thousands of times she replayed the coming-out party in her mind to recreate the rejection and to stoke the fires of bitterness? Then when her anger was white-hot, she would deny the pleas of Newport’s citizens to raze the mansion. Since the house was torn down only two years before her death, it almost appears her only motive for living was to exact revenge — and when she gave up her instrument of revenge, she died.

Think of the price she paid to get even. All the years of enjoyable family relationships. All the friends she could have made. All the people she could have helped.

The traveling she could have done. The life she could have experienced.

Bitterness controls, destroys, consumes, and impoverishes—not the object but the subject himself. When we are bitter we are the loser.

He left you for a younger lady with less weight and wrinkles — and how many times have you replayed the “tape” in which you get even? Or your business partner cheated you out of your part of the business. Or your sibling got your part of the inheritance. “Because of my race, I didn’t get the job.” “The doctor made a mistake and I’m paralyzed for life from the waist down.” The list is endless.

It is for this reason the scripture wisely admonishes us, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31 NASB)

Now think hard about this. Forgiveness frees me while anger and bitterness bind me and control me. My enemy imprisons me as long as I hate and revile him.

The instant I forgive, the door opens and I am free from my prison! Free to love. At last, free to live! When I am unshackled from the bitterness that binds me and controls me, I am overwhelmed with the freedom to enjoy all that life once again offers. Is not the man or woman wise who holds no grudges, and nurses no petty grievances, harbors no “get even” agenda?

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” (Galations 5:1 NASB)

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