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In 1882, a New York City businessman named Joseph Richardson owned a narrow strip of land on Lexington Avenue. It was 5 feet wide and 104 feet long. Another businessman, Hyman Sarner, owned a normal-sized lot adjacent to Richardson’s skinny one. He wanted to build apartments that fronted the avenue. He offered Richardson $1,000 for the slender plot. Richardson was deeply offended by the amount and demanded $5,000. Sarner refused, and Richardson called Sarner a tightwad and slammed the door on him.


Sarner assumed the land would remain vacant and instructed the architect to design the apartment building with windows overlooking the avenue. When Richardson saw the finished building, he resolved to block the view. No one was going to enjoy a free view over his lot.


So seventy-year-old Richardson built a house. Five feet wide and 104 feet long and four stories high with two suites on each floor. Upon completion he and his wife moved into one of the suites.


Only one person at a time could ascend the stairs or pass through the hallway. The largest dining table in any suite was eighteen inches wide. The stoves were the very smallest made. A newspaper reporter of some girth once got stuck in the stairwell, and after two tenants were unsuccessful in pushing him free, he exited only by stripping down to his undergarments.

The building was dubbed the “Spite House.” Richardson spent the last fourteen years of his life in the narrow residence that seemed to fit his narrow state of mind.


The Spite House was torn down in 1915, which is odd. I distinctly remember spending a few nights there last year. And a few weeks there some years back. If memory serves, didn’t I see you squeezing through the hallway?


Revenge builds a lonely house. Space enough for one person. The lives of its tenants are reduced to one goal: make someone miserable. They do. Themselves.


No wonder God insists that we “keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time” (Hebrews 12:15 MSG).


His healing includes a move out of the house of spite, a shift away from the cramped world of grudge toward spacious ways of grace, away from hardness toward forgiveness. He moves us forward by healing our past.


When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day. Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.


Forgiveness doesn’t diminish justice; it just entrusts it to God. He guarantees the right retribution. We give too much or too little. But the God of justice has the precise prescription.


Fix your enemies? That’s God’s job.

Forgive your enemies? Ah, that’s where you and I come in. We forgive.

In Her Own Words:


Twenty years ago we walked behind my husband’s casket on our way to its burial place. It was—I would later realize —a farewell to the living as well as to the dead.


Anna had been my stepdaughter for ten tempestuous years, and her beloved dad was the only one who could bring us to a place of peace. After he died, I was too caught up in my own misery to miss Anna. We traveled such different roads, and our paths never crossed. Seldom did thoughts of one another even pass through our minds. But seldom does not mean never. God knew we had unfinished business. So last June he put an idea into my mind: Maybe I’ll call her the next time I’m in Houston. Would Anna be receptive? That key moment of opportunity came—and I trembled as I left a message. I didn’t know if I would receive any response.


As I was traveling home from Houston, my cell phone rang. It was Anna! She too had been hesitant about our making contact, but in the next two hours of tearful, joyful conversation, we resolved to reunite. Glory to God! Since then Anna and I have been rejoicing together and thanking God for helping us discover a deep love we have for each other.


Our family welcomed Anna back with open arms. She needed us, as it turns out—and not surprisingly, we needed her. Anna is a bottomless well of love!

Anna and I rejoice that we have found each other. God surely has returned to us all that was lost, just as he did in the story of Joseph. What seemed a hopeless chasm caused by time and circumstance has been filled with love.



Begin the process of forgiveness.

1. Keep no list of wrongs.

2. Pray for your antagonists rather than plot against them.

3. Hate the wrong without hating wrongdoers.

4. Turn your attention away from what they did to you towhat Jesus did for you.

Outrageous as it may seem, Jesus died for them too. If he thinks they are worth forgiving, they are.


God’s healing includes a shift away from the

cramped world of grudge toward

spacious ways of

grace, away from hardness toward forgiveness.


“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. “Don’t judge others, and you will

not be judged. Don’t accuse others of being guilty, and you will not be

accused of being guilty. Forgive, and

you will be forgiven.” Do not be bitter

or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. LORD, tell me

your ways. Show me how to live. * May

our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father encourage you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.



25:4; 2 THESSALONIANS 2:16–17


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