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Is it Really That Bad to Hold a Grudge?

Is it Really That Bad to Hold a Grudge?

Hauling down that long stretch of I-35, between northern Oklahoma and the Texas state line, my thoughts replayed an ongoing grudge I’d birthed and tucked in the dark corners of my heart. With every cycle of the tires, I stuffed new irritations and the grudge grew. And I was miserable.

I flipped the dial on the car radio to a Christian station where the voice from the speaker stated, “There’s good news and bad news about forgiveness. The good news is once you’ve made the choice to forgive, in God’s eyes, it’s a done deal. The bad news?” He said, “It’s a life sentence.”

A life sentence? What in the world does this guy mean? Once you decide to forgive someone, what more can you do? And my soul squeezed trouble to the core of my being.

I reached for the dial and stared at the radio for a brief second. 

Forgiveness? Great! How could I forgive forever? I’m not God. What had I done to deserve this punishment? Nothing—absolutely nothing. And now this guy tells me I must forgive and forget—what does he know? Has he walked in my shoes? 

But I didn’t change the station. Because I knew I needed help. My emotions raged out of control and these rogue waves caused grief for no one but me.

“Satan can’t read your thoughts,” the voice from the radio continued. “But we give him enough information with our mouths and our actions to know just when, where, and how to attack us.” And my heart shouted, “But—.” Now I don’t know about you, but I know the moment I think or utter that word, I’m making excuses for disobedience.

“We are human,” the man continued, “…and we’ve forgiven them once, maybe twice, but when our irked button is punched again, the tape replays and all that old turmoil recycles in our minds and we add to the grudges we’ve nurtured. So we must go back to the very beginning—each and every time—and forgive again, and again, and again. And the only way we know we’ve really forgiven is when we pray, on a regular basis, for that person or persons who have offended us and wish God’s blessings for good in their lives—day, after day, after day—until we’ve overcome this battle with the help of the Spirit of God.”

Boy, I knew I sure wasn’t there. 

“It’s not about them,” the man said. “It’s about us.”

Pray for them? Really God? You know what they’ve done and how they’ve treated me. Why do I always have to forgive?

Rodale’s Synonym Finder lists grudge as synonymous with offense, grievance, bitterness, ill will, malice, rancor, hard feelings, discontent, hatred, enmity, envy, jealousy, covetousness. I recognize three words that God lists in His thou shalt not column—covet, envy, hatred. Hard core sins. Sins that rob us of God’s peace and the security of His promises. Sins that contaminate any hope of living a righteous life. And I’d be willing to bet the objects of my grudge aren’t even aware of the depth of grievances I’ve harbored against them.

But God is.

Could it be I’m holding onto this hatred—there I said it—because I haven’t trusted God to sufficiently deal with the person who hurt me? Could it be I’m insisting on having the last word (which denies my trust in God to settle the issue)? Or could it be I’m afraid He will forgive them?

The Spirit of God poked His holy finger right in the darkness of my heart and I squirmed. Many years later, I’d love to tell you I’ve overcome this defect in my soul, but I haven’t. I’m still trudging through that life sentence. One day, one thought, one battle at a time. 

So how does a believer win this battle? On our knees before the Father whenever that fiery dart hits the mark in our thoughts. We must learn to reject sin and confess what we know is sin. Our sin—not theirs, and refuse to accept the taunts that seek to destroy us.

Jesus took all of your sins and mine into His body that was nailed to the Cross. He suffered and died, our Passover Lamb, for each sin we have or would ever commit. God tells us when the righteous blood of Jesus paid the price for our redemption, God cast our sins into the depth of the sea, putting them behind His back, as far as the East is from the West, never to be remembered again. So, if we continue to drudge up sins and irritations others have committed against us aren’t we placing ourselves above God? Just like Satan did?

Our pastor describes the forgiveness process in fishing terms, “By choosing to forgive the actions and words of those who hurt or offend you, you’re not letting them off the hook. You are simply removing them from your hook and placing them on God’s hook.” He is their judge, not you or me. We are not responsible for their actions and reactions, it’s all we can handle to be responsible for ourselves.

God’s Word is clear on this issue of forgiveness: 

“For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15 NAS).


DiAne Gates illustrates and writes fiction for children and YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order as evidenced by her blog Moving the Ancient Boundaries. DiAne worked as a photographer and writer for the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association magazine, and had the opportunity to be in the rodeo arena, giving birth to her western rodeo adventure series, ROPED, available on Amazon. The sequel, TWISTED, will be released by Prism in early 2017. She also facilitates GriefShare, an international support ministry for those who’ve lost loved ones. 

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: January 10, 2017