Bishop Jacques Orlando Gardner Bailey. (Courtesy Photo)

By Bishop Jacques Gardner Bailey

I’ve needed forgiveness more than once in my life, and God obliged me, so I’m now on a mission to offer everyone else the very thing I know I’ve needed. 

Like many people, my life has been a complex journey full of ups and downs. At an early age, I suffered several traumatic experiences. One of my earliest memories was when I was 5 years old, and I saw my biological mom hit in the eye by my stepfather. He literally knocked her eye out of the socket. I never forgot it…

I was molested by a family friend (male) and my mom’s boyfriend’s daughter. As a result, I grew up confused emotionally, and my self-worth was very low. I remember being slapped in the face by an older cousin — I never forgot it. I remember being so poor that at times my sister and I played with our friends to steal food from their refrigerator. I remember poverty, living with people, being teased by kids because we didn’t have food or new clothes at times. Again, I never forgot it. I remember trusting people in the church and being let down repeatedly.

So, the memories became disarming. I built a wall of resistance to people; unforgiveness became my defense system. It became poison in my blood. I believed in Christ and believed I was forgiven. But in anger, I wouldn’t forgive others.  

I had grown accustomed to repeated offenses in my life. I tolerated people but was constantly afraid of an inevitable fall out. When I was 18 my oldest son was born. For having a baby out of wedlock all the people that I regarded highly discarded me. However, I have lived long enough to see their children that were born out of wedlock and other secrets come to light. It was the reality check that eventually became grudges I held onto. There also were many untold truths about my family and past, and I held grudges against family members for not making things clear to me. You see, again, all that unforgiveness was like poison in my blood — even though my heart was good.

I loved to help people and do ministry; but I couldn’t get free myself because I was carrying years of resentment and unforgiveness in my heart, making me hard to love. I have labored in my community, looking to provide hope. And gone home battling depression and suicidal thoughts. I lived in fight or flight mode. Then God graced me with an amazing wife who made tough conversation easy. She encouraged me to get help. I did, and because of that help, I found a pattern in my life and family. 

I had been angry with my mother, and many of the things I was angry about were the result of intergenerational trauma. I reflected on the distance in the relationship with my oldest son. I realized the same neglect I blamed my mother for, I had extended to my son. I was in his life but used the business of ministry to mask my pain. As a result, I had abandoned my son. I provided for him but wasn’t there like I should have been. I realized the generational curse had been passed down. The Lord allowed me to see the damage the poison in my veins, called unforgiveness, was causing. 

I had bottled up pain and resentment from experiencing years of trauma; it made me a functional prisoner in my own mind. Unforgiveness locked me away in my mind to count offenses and I lost precious time. Recently, I had a conversation with my mother, and began to release my resentment and anger. We began the process of healing. I came to realize she did the best she could with what she knew. This realization helped me to release my long-held resentment and anger and began the process of forgiving my mother. 

Forgiveness of my mother allowed me to realize how powerful, healing and freeing forgiveness can be. And it has impacted my other relationships. 

My mom and I forgave each other; and my children and I are rebuilding our relationships. Nothing is perfect but I’m grateful things are better. 

As I share my story, I have experienced new challenges to see if my resolve is true. Yes, I’ve grown to know my real problem has been forgiveness; not receiving it from God but extending it to myself and others. And for this I am grateful.

 Bishop Jacques Orlando Gardner Bailey Sr. is the pastor of Marketplace Fellowship and Churches International in Baltimore, Md.

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