Who wounded you?
If you can’t identify an individual who treated you unkindly, or who has in some way hurt you — intentionally or not — you are a fortunate person!
Most of us are acquainted with the sting of injustice.
Perhaps we were lied to, betrayed, or deceived. Possibly we were disrespected, bullied, or abused — physically, emotionally, or both.
There are little wounds and severe offenses. However, the reality is: You don’t get through life without being wounded.
Whether the affronts we encounter are purposefully intended or not, left unattended, they fester! Those hurts gnaw at our mind and heart, brewing anger and resentment, which produces bitterness.
And, nursing a grudge always produces bitterness!
I especially like the way Lisa Esposito defines a grudge:
“A grudge is a worn, ugly, itchy sweater you can’t get rid of — because if you do, how will you stay warm?”
Those familiar with betrayal tend to protect themselves from further pain. After all, very few of us are masochists. As the old saying goes: “Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me.”
We feel a responsibility to protect ourselves from being harmed — again! When someone violates trust, it’s not easy to live out the saying: “Forgive and forget.”
My forgiveness may be sincere. However, my “forgetter” seems to frequently malfunction!
I’ve been told more than once by well-meaning individuals: “Don’t think of the past!”
However, we do recall the past. That’s the reality. But thankfully, the past does not have to control us.
Holding grudges keeps us from experiencing an abundant life. Harry Emerson Fosdick puts it this way: “Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.” I believe this.
The grudge I hold against the person(s) who harmed me preoccupies my thinking, monopolizes my time, and prevents me from experiencing life today — and seeing the potential of what’s ahead of me.
So why are we inclined to hold grudges?
The wisdom of Proverbs warns us of the danger of seeking retribution: “Do not say, I will repay evil; wait for the Lord, and he will help you” - Proverbs 20:22.
Is it me? Or, do others also believe God is too slow!
My desire for retribution often overshadows my willingness to forgive! I try to convince myself it would be easier to overlook the offense if God would punish the one who wounded me — now, not later. I know that’s not right to feel that way, but it’s real.
However, rehearsing the grudge (over-and-over) only encourages me to ignore my need for forgiveness.
Jesus challenges the world’s view of revenge:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …”
That is such a contrast to what I want to do — and what my culture believes! However, it is what Jesus expects — and requires!
The apostle Paul warns us:
“…never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Holding a grudge is more than my refusal to let go of the insult or wrong I experienced. It’s also my unwillingness to release my perpetrator(s) to God’s justice.
So, I ask again: Who wounded you?
You probably know the answer. But the critical question for each of us to ask is: Am I holding a grudge towards that individual?
If the answer is YES, and you desire to let go of the grudge, here are some things that will be helpful so that we can be better, not bitter:
Acknowledge the pain. There’s no shame in admitting you’re wounded. Consider writing your thoughts and expressing them to God and yourself, by journaling. Make your complaint known to God in honesty. Then, put your pen or pencil down and LISTEN to God. What do you sense the Lord is saying to you. Write it down in your journal.
Choose to Forgive. Forgiving does not erase the memory of the offense. It does liberate you from the bondage caused by our persistence to rehearse and re-live the affront. When we forgive, we are not condoning or ignoring the wrong. However, regularly praying: “Forgive [me my] trespasses, as [I] forgive those who trespass against [me],” helps us appropriately re-focus our attention to our need for forgiveness.
Avoid becoming a victim. Holding a grudge does not serve you. It only helps empower our perpetrator. We acknowledge the pain but refuse to allow the offense to victimize us.
Don’t allow anger to define you. Choose to practice grace! As difficult, painful, and unfair as it seems, our response must reflect love, kindness, and grace. I want others to see me as “gracious” rather than “spiteful.”
Woodrow Kroll rightly reminds us: “A bitter spirit will keep you from being a better person.”
Hanging on to grudges requires an enormous amount of energy and harms us. I’m ready to let go of grudges so I can experience — and enjoy — life!
How about you?
2 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Mt 5:43–44.
3 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ro 12:19.