Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I opened up this topic of bearing grudges. When someone does or says something that really hurts your feelings, you might automatically think that you will never be able to forgive them for what they’ve done.
If you hold a grudge, though, you are probably hurting yourself more than the other person, according to experts. And I want to continue having another look at bearing a grudge. Is that a wise thing to do? Probably not.
One psychologist I read about said, “Holding a grudge essentially means that you no longer trust the person and you are barring them from entry in your life.” And that’s a serious matter. Holding a grudge adds an extra level between you and that other person—and how you handle that is very important, for your own sake.
“Sometimes grudges can be obsessive thoughts…We’d like to stop, but we just can’t seem to get out of the repetitive cycle,” says another professional. And it takes hold of our thoughts, day and night. Has that happened to you? “Holding on to that much anger can be toxic and hurts you just as much in the process. Decide to try to think of letting go of your anger as an act of self-love, and you might find it easier to do,” they advise.
Forgiving Just as We Were Forgiven
Do you want to have a sense of inner peace and stability? Holding onto a grudge disrupts that goal, and can eat away at your own mental health, despite whatever the issue is. We have a tendency to carry painful parts of our past with us—resentment against people who’ve hurt us, mistakes we’ve made, or even bitterness toward God. Do people hold a grudge against God? Yes, they do. Because God could have done something that God didn’t—or maybe God allowed something that you think God should have stopped. And you feel angry and resentful.
Let’s take the Bible seriously here. Jesus says, ”I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 – NIV). You may dislike someone so much you feel they are the enemy—you bear a deep grudge. But the Apostle Paul said, ”Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” (Ephesians 4:32 – NIV).
The words of Jesus will stop you in your tracks:
If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 – NIV)
God tells us clearly to forgive—it’s not negotiable.
God tells us clearly to forgive—it’s not negotiable. To put this very simply: Christians are not to bear grudges against others; instead they are to forgive those who have wronged them.
At some point someone tried to get Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, to remember some terrible thing that someone had done to her a number of years earlier. She said she did not remember what had happened. Pressed on the matter, she finally said, “No, I distinctly remember forgetting it.” It wasn’t that she accidentally forgot. That she ignored the wrongdoing. Or that she pretended that it hadn’t happen. But she made a choice to let go of what was done. No matter how long you nurse a grudge, it won’t get better.
To forgive does not mean that we pretend that everything is OK. That the offense never happened. It doesn’t mean that we deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting us. It doesn’t minimise or justify the wrong. Forgiveness is not saying that the offense was right. But it’s giving it to God. God knows what we need.
A Prescription for Forgiveness
Something that sometimes helps me is to remember that I have a really limited perspective on other people’s lives. I don’t know their history, their relationships, or the things that have scarred them.
And that limited perspective extends to me. So often we can’t see where we are wrong. Where we have hurt others; we need the same forgiveness they need. We all have limited perspectives on ourselves and others.
When it comes to perspectives, only God knows. Only God knows what needs to change in other people. And, really, we have enough to do in our own lives without trying to do God’s work in other people’s lives too. Turning it over to God, our load lightens. Our hearts and minds are filled with peace.
Here’s the prescription—and it works, if we do it! Pray, at least once a day, for that person; more if needed. Now, granted, your prayer might be a little rugged at first. But once a day, at least, pray for that person. Continue to pray for at least 30 days, until you no longer want that person to suffer.
We’re not in charge of the other person’s relationship to God, or the consequences they may face. But we are in charge of our resentments, our anger.