We all have people in our lives who have a hard time getting over stuff. Maybe it’s a co-worker who keeps double checking your work ever since you made that one little mistake. Or that spouse who won’t ever let you forget the time you forgot your anniversary. Most of the time when someone bears a grudge we never know it – it just changes the fellowship we have with them. Of course, there is only so much we can do about someone else’s grudge, but we can most certainly be responsible for ourselves. I try to keep three things in mind.
1) What is this grudge (nursing of bitterness or resentment) accomplishing?
Grudges only harm me, not the person I resent. But while I may “know” that, I often don’t process it that way. Remember:
“To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.” ~William Walton
“Once armies carried cannonballs with them, afraid they would meet the enemy somewhere and have nothing to shoot at it. In terms of specific gravity, grudges are about as heavy as cannonballs. But it makes little sense to carry them. Most likely, the “enemy” is unaware of your enmity, and surely would be surprised to learn that you’ve been stalking him with a cannonball in your pocket. So examine your grudges. Do what armies do when hostilities are over: unload the cannonballs and stack them on the courthouse lawn. Then marvel at how much easier it is to get around.” ~James Thom
2) Is this the way a grown-up acts?A grudge is the adult equivalent of pouting. It’s the behavior of a child who isn’t getting his/her way and can neither accept nor change that fact. As we grow up we should learn to accept (be content) with what we cannot change and we should also learn to work hard to change those things we can change. When as an adult I’m powerless to change a circumstance and also unwilling to accept said circumstance, I may look for a scapegoat to resent, and there is my grudge. Or I may have a conflict with someone and despite the apologies and words of forgiveness, I still hang on to some bitterness because, like a child, it makes me feel like I have an upper hand. There may be countless scenarios wherein the best way for me to deal with the issue is to simply get out my driver’s license and do a little math. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” ~1 Corinthians 13:11
3) Is this grudge affecting my fellowship* with my Savior? The answer is simply, “yes!” Not only does it grieve the Holy Spirit – check out the flow of thought at the end of Ephesians 4 – but Jesus Himself said that it will hinder my prayer! Remember His discussion in Mark 11 about asking in faith after the disciples were marveling at the fig tree He had cursed? After telling them to pray believing, He added these words: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” ~Mark 11:25,26 Chilling words! Brother, sister, if you’re carrying around bitterness or resentment because of some hurt, sin or even disappointment, let it go. My unwillingness to forgive, let go, tear up the debt I’m holding affects my fellowship with God. Since I desperately want His forgiveness, I must forgive!
Bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness and grudges only hurt me, make me look like a child, and prevent God’s fellowship forgiveness of me. Perhaps it’s time to let it go!
*If you have trusted Jesus with your eternal life, you were forgiven of all sin for all time (Hebrews 10:1-18) and have been adopted as God’s child – that is your relationship. Your relationship doesn’t change; you will always be His kid. The conditional forgiveness Jesus talks of here and in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6) must, therefore, be speaking of our fellowship with Him (e.g., even if your mom isn’t speaking to you, she’s still your mom. Your relationship hasn’t changed; how you experience, or fellowship, within that relationship has.)