The other day, I was thinking about what enabled me to get through college and I came to the following conclusion.

Coffee shops.

Whether it's steamrolling in from the doors or the serene atmosphere, coffee shops have helped me make great strides in my life. In fact, I wrote this column in a coffee shop. And, in doing so, I made yet another great stride. I had a change of heart.

Whenever I write a column, I feel a fear inside me, whispering "What will people think about this?" or "I don't want to be criticized."

After six months, I still can't conquer this fear. But let's face it – I write an opinion column, and if I choose to abide by fear, then why write?

In that little coffee shop in Old City, I finally gathered my courage. At least, enough courage to write about faith – not religion – in spite of the controversy that tends to accompany this topic.

Last week, I was blessed and honored to attend The Cross Fall Break trip. The Cross is an organization for Greeks seeking to help the community through missions.

In a small town called Pineville, in the bottom of Kentucky, my life was changed for the better. I lost the superficial life I was living and found one of substance and genuine friendship. During this process, though, I had to overcome one challenge in particular.

I used to be a cookie-cutter "Christian" kid, trying so desperately to be the best version of myself that I lost my personal identity. I let others walk all over me because I thought that is "what Jesus would have done."

I never saw this as an issue, believing that harboring bitterness and holding grudges was simply my version of "standing up for myself."

Needless to say, college was a huge slap in the face for me.

Through making such a big transition, I realized that I have never been the person I wanted to be. Rather, I was living in extremity, failing to embody the love of Jesus.

On one side, I spent so much time pleasing others that I had no self-respect. For me, "being a good Christian" meant forgiving without consequence.

More recently, I have struggled with constant disapproval for minor mistakes and wrongdoing against me.

What was I thinking?

After 20 years of life, I have only just discovered the dilemma and the advantage of forgiveness.

Neither of these mindsets represent what a Christian should be. I was allowing other people to control me by entertaining this anger in my heart.

God is sovereign. He knows my worries. He knows my pain. And He will comfort me. I need only to have faith.

Forgiveness comes with a cost. But sometimes forgiving others doesn't mean being their friend. It just means feeling nothing but love when you see them, whatever the relationship may be. Regardless of religion, faith allows you to let go and permit situations to work themselves out.

Forgiveness allows me to worry about myself and not let conflict control my life. Having a chip on my shoulder only makes my day less enjoyable and my friendships less full. Although I don't live everyday as I should, that is what I aspire to be: a forgiver.

Just some food for thought from my coffee shop on the corner.

Annie Blackwood is a junior in communications. She can be reached at ablackwo@utk.edu.