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A Grudge is a Ball and Chain

Francie's definition of a "grudge": Allowing moldy old offenses to torment us while hoping that the offender will be tormented at least twice as much by our cold-shoulder payback.

Reality: When we hold a grudge, the other person sleeps well and we don't. Nobody has to drag these resentments around like a ball and chain. How can we unlock the shackles?

1. Forgive... You knew this one: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you..." (Matt. 6:14) Forgiveness is defined as follows: "The pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty. The forgiveness of enemies is a Christian duty." (Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary) When we forgive, we have agreed to call the offender "not guilty" anymore. It's the same thing that Christ did for us, only He did it a lot faster.

2. ...Or else! "...But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:15) This reminds me of when a basketball player shoots from the free-throw line and makes the basket, only to be disqualified because his toe was over the line. We are disqualified from the forgiveness that we seek when we won't grant it. We're not just over the line; we're also out of line! Bible Commentator Matthew Henry said it very well: "Those that would find mercy with God must show mercy to their brethren." Matthew 6:15 reads a lot like a threatening promise.

3. And while you're at it, P.O.A.T. "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression." (Prov. 19:11) If you've ever heard me teach at a conference, you've probably heard me turn "Pass Over A Transgression" into the acronym P.O.A.T. In this case, we are admitting to ourselves that we have been wronged, but we are choosing to forgive anyway. The hurt was real; not imagined, but we are freely granting forgiveness, just as it was granted to us.

Part of our problem with getting over grudges is that we have this uncanny ability to replay events in our minds, as often as we'd like. We can automatically recall a situation, how it hurt, and why. And then we can press the mental "replay" button and go through it all over again, usually making the offender seem more shameful, deceitful and scheming with each rerun of the episode. And don't even start with the 100 different ways we can imagine to "tell them off" if only we had another opportunity! In a sense, we're role-playing sin in our imaginations. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)

When we've been hurt or offended, it pays for us to turn things around and ask ourselves some questions:
1. Have I ever done something wrong to a person without any evil intent? (Yes.)
2. Is it possible that someone could accidentally hurt me? (Yes.)
3. Have I ever said something that was taken the wrong way? (Probably.)
4. Do I want to be forgiven when, not if, but when I've hurt someone? (Yes.)
5. Do I love people enough to pardon them? (Only you know the answer to this one.)

The ability to forgive is an indication of our love for others. Holding a grudge? It's a sign of a lack of love.  "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20) 

Grudges sure do take up a lot of emotional energy, don't they? Most pain is that way. And it doesn't matter if we think someone else is wrong; they can point that same gun at us and shoot their reasons. As the irritating saying goes, "Perception is reality." I may perceive that the other person is wrong, but it won't get me past their perception that I am the one in the wrong. 

Do you see how this could go on ad nauseum? We're like that unforgiving servant who was pardoned by his master, only to turn around and refuse to pardon one of his fellow servants. "But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest." (Matt. 18:28) Maybe we won't go so far as to grab someone by the neck and start shaking them around, but we're doing that emotionally when we won't forgive! And all the while, Christ is watching and wondering why we've forgotten what He did for us: "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? (Matt. 18:33) Our inability (or slow ability) to forgive is evidence that we are just as bad.

Fortunately, forgiveness is the key that unlocks the shackles to the ball and chain. "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."--Lewis B. Smedes 

Sounds like a great deal to me: Two are freed for the price of one forgiving. When it comes to grudges, the best way to shed them is to pardon the offender. How can you tell when the grudgefest is over? Let's look at one more quote from Lewis Smedes for a hint: "You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well." In other words, you granted forgiveness and recovered your spiritual sanity in the process.

There is comfort, victory and freedom in forgiveness that comes from the heart.

"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin agains me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22)


  1. From reader Jill Turner:
    How often we approach the throne having "confessed" all of our sin, but refusing to forgive. If we regard iniquity in our heart, even unforgiveness, He will not hear us. I loved the sentence about the freedom we find in forgiveness. So true!!


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