So, on Monday my post was titled Don’t Let It Go. I wrote it because I was checking the lyrics of the popular song to see if there was any phrase I could use for the post I am about to write right now. Instead I found new age nonsense. But, while we certainly shouldn’t let any opportunity to discern go by us, there are a few things that we really do need to let go. Like grudges.
Recently, my husband and I ran into a couple we know. We are very aware of the fact that this couple doesn’t particularly like us and hasn’t for many years. The thing is–we have never figured out exactly why. Oh, we have some guesses and assumptions, but we have never had a sit-down conversation as to why they hold us in such low esteem.
So, when my husband offered his right hand to the woman to shake hers in a gesture of friendliness, we weren’t surprised. You see, while she lifted her hand in a limp shake, she would not look into my husband’s eyes. She kept staring straight ahead. Like he wasn’t there. Because she doesn’t like him. But we don’t know why.
Our families and church families are FILLED with these scenarios. This person doesn’t like that person, often because of something that happened a very long time ago.
And there are two perspectives in these situations to consider — the grudge holder’s and the one the grudge is being held against (hereon out to be referred to as the “grudgee”). I’ve been both, so I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned.
As Grudge Holder
This one I find to be a ginormous waste of personal energy. As I tell my kids, life is just too short for grudges. Oh, I have people that I do not see eye to eye with, but I am learning to view them with more grace as I grow older. Unbelievers are so much easier. I expect them to hurt me, to revile me, and to be unkind. They are not living by God’s law and I shouldn’t expect them to. I find the hurts dealt by Christian brothers and sisters to be much more painful and challenging to get over. But, here again, grace is the word that comes to mind. Do I know what experiences or trials have led that person to be unkind or to make that choice? And, let’s be honest, do I even know if that person calling him or herself a believer is a genuine believer? There are so many who use the label, but do not truly understand the depth of their sin and the payment for that sin at the cross.
I have had a long and challenging journey in this area. I have learned to just ask God to fill me with His love for those I find so hard to love on my own. And a big part of healing in this area, if we struggle with it, is to control our thoughts. You see, Satan just gets in there and twists and turns and makes every offense even worse than it really was. In fact, sometimes we find offense where there was absolutely none intended.
I believe that grudges cause destruction. I have seen the horrible wreckage and wastelands of families and churches that have been ripped apart by grudges. It is so tragic. And, for some reason I cannot figure out, it seems to be a totally and completely excusable sin in our churches. Why is this okay?
Now the other thing that I have found myself tempted to do is to “Christianize” my grudge. I will hold ill will in my heart towards someone and rationalize why I am sure God must understand, and perhaps even give His blessing, to it. Of course, this is ridiculous. Even if we are standing for righteousness, it gives us no excuse to hold ill will against a particular person. Jesus Christ, as he headed to the cross, set the best example for us, didn’t He? I Peter 2:23 tells us this about the Savior–
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.
He set the perfect example by not only reacting in a calm and gracious manner, but by showing us that we are to commit our wills and desires to God, who judges all things righteously and can take care of the person that is hurting us (Romans 12:19).
Bottom Line: Grudges are unacceptable for a believer (Ephesians 4:31-32; Leviticus 19:18; Mark 11:25). Grudges are also a big waste of time and energy.
Okay, so yes, I know “grudgee” isn’t a word, but exactly what is the concise word for being the person that a grudge is held against? So, I will just call it this.
I have had much experience with this one, as my big and thoughtless mouth has often gotten me into a spot of trouble. I say things before I think and find, sometimes YEARS later, that something I said has caused a person to hold a grudge against me all this time. Usually I find this out via a friend of a friend. It is rarely from the person herself.
My reaction to this has changed quite a bit over the years. Let me share.
Let me say this first– I work very hard to be more careful with my words and my tone. I do not have this down 100%, by any means, but I recognize my tendency and really try to remember this when I am talking to people. But I am sure I still inevitably frustrate and offend people. And God tells us that all of us who are believers should actually expect to offend people when we share the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). So this is something we have probably all dealt with at one time or another.
Here are a few things I have learned about being the grudgee. First, I recognize that I have control over only one part of this situation — myself and my reaction. We can feel pretty helpless in the shadow of someone’s hostility towards us. Some of us grow angry right back at that person, others of us try to just ignore it, and some of us work so hard to fix it and find ourselves filled with disappointment and bitterness when the “happy ending” we long for isn’t forthcoming. But what is a biblical response? A lot of what I wrote above is also applicable here (Jesus’s example, the verses given), so I won’t repeat myself. But here are a few more specifics —
1. Love the grudge holder. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44, that we are to love our enemies. If someone hates us we are to return that hate with love. Sometimes that feels humanly impossible. That is because it is. Here again, I have learned to ask God to fill me with His love, because, on my own, I am empty. Responding with love is difficult, but if we can do it, we are a tremendous testimony of God’s working in our lives. Because this is so outside our human nature, we shine like a giant spotlight in pitch black darkness when we love those who hate us.
2. Pray for the grudge holder. I don’t know how this works, but if we can sincerely lift the grudge holder before God and pray for their salvation or spiritual growth, it changes how you feel about them. Somehow this process gives us more grace to deal with this person.
3. Do something kind for the grudge holder. Now if you do not run into this grudge holder regularly, this might be awkward. But if it is someone you see at church or it is a family member, go out of your way to be nice. I have a friend who often used this phrase, when faced with similar situations: kill them with kindness. Yes! What wisdom! Do you know how hard it is to hate someone who is so nice to you? It will often make a difference.
These things are not easy to do. In fact, they are very difficult. Our feelings cry out in opposition, and yet, if we can choose to obey, in spite of our feelings, the reward is tremendous. No, sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way we want. This is not a cure-all for relationships. The reward is not always a happy ending. But one guaranteed reward is always peace. Peace because we have done the right thing, according to God’s Word (Matthew 5:44). Peace because, as much as it is up to us, we have strived to live in peace (Romans 12:18). And peace because we have followed our Savior’s example (I Peter 2:23).
Bottom Line: We need to love the grudge holder and let the rest up to God.
These are hard things to talk about and most of us are caught up in it in one way or another. Many of us are caught up in both ways. I would love to hear what you have learned and the biblical wisdom you have gained through your own experiences? I am sure I have not covered this whole subject of grudges in completion. Please leave a comment below to help fill in the gaps :)