We often hear the term ‘holding a grudge’. But what does it actually mean? ‘Grudge’ is an actual word and its dictionary meaning is a feeling of ill will, or some grievance, or to harbour resentment. Have you ever felt like that? I have and my guess is you have too.
It’s not a very nice experience and can easily get out of control—to hold or carry a grudge. A grudge is not an actual physical thing that can be picked up, or seen. But it is something that is ‘carried’ internally. It is real, it is heavy, and the effects of carrying it internally can be seen outwardly in our actions toward others and ourselves. It can cause great harm to us and others physically and mentally. And though it is not tangible, it can grow and become bigger and in time it could completely rob our lives of certain things.
When you hold a grudge, you have to put energy into it; you have to keep on returning to the memory and feeding your resentment. Although your feelings may be perfectly justified, this process never gets anywhere. And it simply robs your life of time. And that doesn’t make much sense to me. We can do much more with our time that is productive and helpful.
I watched a movie one night on TV called Rams. It’s a great story about two brothers who lived on a farm left to them by their parents. Trouble was they hadn’t spoken for 40 years due to much resentment and hatred, one towards the other. It’s a fascinating movie—worth watching. It is often the little things that divide people and steal time away from our lives. Can you imagine all the special and precious moments in life that are wasted and thrown away due to the thief named grudge? To say nothing of the emotional damage it does to us.
Taking Responsibility for Our Own Feelings
Forgiveness is hard. But not forgiving leads to hurt, bitterness, anger, resentment and self-destruction. It tears up families, and ruins friendships. When someone has wronged you in some way, anger is a natural reaction. If what happened is especially painful—or if the person who hurt you is unwilling to take responsibility—you may start to form a grudge against that person. But sometimes things will remain unresolved, and that hurt can linger.
Forgiveness is hard. But not forgiving leads to hurt, bitterness, anger, resentment and self-destruction.
In this case, rather than getting stuck with anger about what happened, we need to learn to take responsibility for our own feelings about the situation. Grudges can be seen as an opportunity to learn that instead of being dependent on someone else to fix your feelings for you, you’re able to fulfill that need for yourself.
If we can get past the feeling of resentment, maybe there is a real chance for self-growth. It’s an opportunity for us to to accept things for what they are, live more completely in the present, practise some serious self-love—and most of all, learn the fine art of letting go.
Many of us hold grudges for a limited time, and are able to let them go after some healthy processing. Others hold onto them for years, and may even have grudges stemming from their childhood. Most of us will only hold grudges against a few select people; others seem to collect grudges readily and with enthusiasm. Of course, the more angry and bitter you are toward someone, the harder it becomes to work through any issues you have with them.
Grudges can easily spiral into a never-ending cycle of blame and rage, which is why it’s important to work toward resolution internally, or with the other party—I know it’s easier said than done! St Augustine once said, “Holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die.”
Learning To Forgive
The Bible says in Ephesians:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 – NIV)
Very good advice indeed. The Bible here is speaking of grudges and it’s telling us to simply get rid of them and have a forgiving heart. This sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Just stop, don’t do it, move on, forget about it. The question is: Can we, can we really? I think we must—if we want get rid of our grudges; if we are to live productive lives.
There is a thief named ‘grudge’ and he comes in and out of our lives. He steals our joy, our time and our focus. Bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness build up to be very ugly things in our lives and causes a negative effect on all our relationships. They are not pretty and not things people enjoy being around.
There is a thief named ‘grudge’ and he comes in and out of our lives.
So, in thinking upon all of this, it just might be a good time to take a good look at ourselves and see if we are harbouring any grudges. If we are, we should resolve to let them go. We should take those grudges right now and get rid of them. Then, make it a point to say, I will not allow my life to be robbed by a grudge!
We will truly be happier for having made that choice. For, if we choose to carry forgiveness in our hearts, there will be no room for any grudges to burden us down, and we will be able to walk in freedom to live joyful, pleasant lives.
Instead of holding on to grudges and becoming bitter, frustrated individuals, God has called us to a higher standard—that of forgiveness. We need to forgive those who have wronged us as soon as possible, giving up our right for revenge and to hold a grudge.