Recently I had an encounter with a grudge. It started simply—I felt a friend had snubbed me. She didn’t come to an event I had invited her to. And to make matters worse she didn’t even call to explain why! In fact, I didn’t hear from her for so many days following the missed encounter I wondered if I was being avoided.
As my perceived injuries festered I felt the grudge lapping up my feelings of injustice. I knew my grudge was growing but I didn’t care. I had been wronged and I wasn’t going to be the one to end the standoff. After all, I was the one who was snubbed!
Maybe at first I would’ve been willing to overlook the offence—after all there was probably a good explanation for her absence and perhaps even for the lack of notice. But to completely avoid me, well that’s the next level. I couldn’t overlook that.
I impatiently waited for an apology, or at least some kind of acknowledgement so my friend could know my grudge, but it never came. The days passed but my hurt feelings didn’t.
One of the more convicting teachings regarding grudges is found in Mark 11:22-25. The Message paraphrase says it like this.
Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”
Holding a grudge against another seems like a sure-fire way to separate yourself from an effective prayer life and, thus, a healthy relationship with God. As well the concept of a grudge flies in the face of Jesus’ example—being gracious and noble in spirit, and doing right even when others treat you poorly.
Jesus tells a story about a man who was forgiven a great debt by the king. This man, who would never have been able to repay what he owed, then turns around and demands a debt repayment from another man. Even though the first man had been shown great mercy by the king, he had none for the man who owed him money. When the king heard about it he was angry and said “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33 NLT). Jesus then says that’s what our heavenly Father will do if we refuse to forgive others in our hearts.
In order to end the standoff I had to be the one to break. In my heart I knew I was being petty and immature…but that meant humbling myself.
Talking about being humble is simple, but it takes practice to actually be humble. And of course it’s always in times of extreme pride the words of 1 Peter 5:6 especially sting. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (NASB). Once the still, small voice of God nudged those words into my mind and heart I knew my loitering with my grudge must come to an end.
In order to do this I had to completely drop my hurt feelings and remember we were actually good friends.
And besides, if people like Joseph (Genesis 45), David (1 Samuel 24), and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27-37)—people who had been wounded so much deeper than I had—can forgive couldn’t I oversee this tiny thing? What made these Bible characters great was not their grudge, but their grace. Didn’t I want the same for my life?