Move on from holding grudges for your own good and peace of mind
To hold on to offense does not mean we don’t stand up for what’s right. It doesn’t mean we’re a doormat. It means we know which battles to fight, but also we must protect our relationships and our hearts from offense as best we can.
Holding on to a grudge can significantly impact our spiritual, mental, physical, and relational health. It has often been said, and rightfully so, that when we hold on to grudges, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.
Are you offended about something that has happened to you and you can’t let it go? In this day and age, if I were a betting lady, I’d say there is a good chance you are.
As I write this blog, I have personally journeyed through multiple relationships marred by long-standing grudges. Some grudges have lingered for more than five years. I haven’t been the one holding the grudges. But I might as well have held them because for years, I quietly soaked myself in the misery of rejection. Sleepless nights, crying spells, nightmares, second-hand insecurities from rejection…they affected my well-being and sense of self-worth. I have paid a steep price from being on the receiving end of these grudges because I was powerless to fix the matters.
If you are dwelling on an offense, and won’t let it go, the Lord God isn’t pleased with your decision to hold a grudge. He deems your decision to hold on to the offense “a sin.” And sin that is unrepented (or if you don’t stop holding the grudge) is called “iniquity,” as found in Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
When you offend someone, do you view it as sinning against them or God? What about when someone has offended you? Do you believe the person has sinned against you and/or against God? I was of the belief that they have sinned against me, and God is displeased too. But the truth is when someone hurts us, they have sinned against God. After King David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, and then had Uriah killed, he said to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned,” Psalm 51:4.
Why is this true? Because sin is not wrongdoing against another first. It’s first and utmost wrongdoing against God. By Biblical definition, sin is rebellion against God, not against people. This Biblical truth opened my eyes to the seriousness of holding grudges.
What about the hard offenses?
Those that nearly killed you. The ones that tore your heart in two. Those are typically the offenses that hold a debilitating grip over our lives even though we know God isn’t pleased with us. One woman told me that it will take God Himself to change her mind about forgiving someone who hurt her child. It was a horrible sexual sin against her child. She believes she is incapable of forgiving, let alone forgetting, the hurt inflicted on her child.
Does God expect this lady to forgive her offender and let go of the offense?
The short of it is – yes. God expects this lady to forgive even though her daughter was raped. The reality is that our pride makes it so difficult to forgive. It is our pride that makes us feel like a victim. Pride makes us think we are entitled to hold the grudge. And it is intensified when people condone our feelings and unforgiveness; they tell us we deserve to be hurt and never have that person in our life again.
I am not saying it’s “easy.” When someone you love has betrayed you or hurt you, it is definitely not easy to let it go. I don’t want to be cavalier. But when we think about Jesus, who paid for all of our sins on that cross, there is no comparison. He paid it all for the very worst of humanity. He also warned us – forgive others as we ourselves desire and expect to be forgiven.
Forgiveness is often a process but if we would stop rehashing “what happened to us” over and over in our minds, we could improve our mental and emotional health. If we would take the matter to God in prayer without holding ourselves captive to the offense, we wouldn’t have a crisis of faith that hinders our growth in Christ Jesus. So you say it keeps coming back to your mind – well, you keep taking it right back to Jesus. Time and time again.
This is why it’s so important to care for the condition of our hearts and not hold on to grudges, offenses, and wrongs. Our hearts affect how we interpret the world around us and how we perceive others too.
To decide not to hold on to offense does not mean we don’t stand up for what’s right. It doesn’t mean we’re a doormat. It means we know which battles to fight, but also we must protect our relationships and our hearts from offense as best we can. In life, it is inevitable that we will be offended – and that we will offend. But we must choose to forgive, and we cannot allow our hearts to become hardened.
If we want to maintain good relationships, in our marriage, with our friends, or with other loved ones, we can’t give in to offenses and hold grudges.
If you need to address an offensive individual, keep the following two scriptures in mind:
Matthew 18:15-20 states, “If another believer sins against you, go privately, and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”
Here scripture is instructing us on when someone has hurt (sinned) us.
“Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering,” Matthew 5:23-24.
Here scripture is instructing us on when we have hurt (sinned) someone.
You can't force someone to forgive you. People need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Remember, forgiveness is a process. Whatever happens, commit to treating people with compassion, empathy, and respect even if it means you've lost the relationship. Free yourself from the grudge, and don't condemn yourself if the other person won't forgive. You've done what Jesus has command you to do. Let Him have the situation moving forward.