St. Augustine once said, “Holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die.” We all have reasons to hold a grudge. Situations and people hurt us. God does not always do what we think He should do, so we get angry with Him. When we hold offenses against those who have wronged us, a root of bitterness will set in unless we acknowledge our refusal to forgive and confess our unloving attitude.
God understands His children and knows a grudge will harden a human heart. We have been commanded to love one another; an attitude of anger and unforgiveness will not only hinder our relationship with others but with God as well. Sin separates us from our heavenly Father… and a grudge is sinful. It is tainted with a need for vengeance and control.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:12 (NKJV)
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 19:18 (NKJV)
We set ourselves up as judge and jury—to determine that one person’s wrong should not be forgiven, when we hold a grudge. No human being has the right or authority to do that! Only God can see into a person’s heart completely. He knows our full history and why we act as we do. God is the clockmaker and he understands how we tick.
When a person wrongs us, our emotions tend to erupt and take over our thoughts and actions. Anger, sadness, feelings of rejection and betrayal can cut us to the quick and warp our ability to think clearly. That is why we need a just and loving God, a God who sees both sides of the story. Jesus was no stranger to slander, gossip, beatings, and evildoers, yet He continued to love them despite their abuses against Him.
Misunderstanding forgiveness can keep a person in bondage to grudges. When we offer an olive branch and forgive a wrongdoer, this does not excuse their sin. God sees how we have been offended and knows the best way to deal with our wrongdoer.
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 (NKJV)
We often hold on to a grudge because we have a desire to see justice is done, or that others come to recognize how badly they have wounded us. But when we give the situation over to God, along with our desire to arbitrate the outcome, we free the Lord to work as He sees fit.
When we hold on to a grudge, we give someone power over our emotions. But when we forgive, we hand over every right for restitution to God. When we do this, we put our relationship with Father God back into alignment. Forgiveness is a choice and it requires the laying down of our will. Trusting in biblical truths will enable us to recognize God’s wisdom and love for us. His justice will always be the best for us. He has the right to bring about any resolution He chooses.
Although the slights and wounds others have flung our way pain us, we can take heart in the following promise of God.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
“It hurts more to hold grudges than to forgive. The anger we hold inside damages us, nobody else. Do not be prisoners of yourselves.”