The Irony of Holding a Grudge

When we think we are executing some kind of justice by holding a grudge, we actually harm ourselves more than we harm the object of our disdain.

Sure, obtaining “justice” might not always look the same, depending on your personality, but typically it looks like lashing out, ignoring the other person, avoiding eye-contact, walking the other way when you see them, and having imagery debates in your head. We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking there is freedom in that. They have to pay, don’t they?

 

Isn’t holding a grudge just the best? Someone has wronged us, wounded us, irritated us, infuriated us, etc., and they deserve some kind of retribution. They can’t get away with that, can they? They need to know that they’ve angered you, and you will make sure they know.

Sure, obtaining “justice” might not always look the same, depending on your personality, but typically it looks like lashing out, ignoring the other person, avoiding eye-contact, walking the other way when you see them, and having imagery debates in your head.

We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking there is freedom in that. They have to pay, don’t they? It feels good to “show them” through subtle actions and biting words that they’ve done something we don’t like. Holding a grudge, after all, is our default mode when wronged.

Putting aside for a moment the graceless and gospel-less problems in holding a grudge, we will actually find, ironically, that the one who is harmed when we hold a grudge is not the one we are holding the grudge against. Rather, when we think we are executing some kind of justice by holding a grudge, we actually harm ourselves more than we harm the object of our disdain (again, set aside the massive problems in wanting someone to be “harmed” for a moment).

We all know this verse in Ephesians 4:26 from the Apostle Paul, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” But what about what comes after that?

“…and give no opportunity to the devil.” What does holding on to our anger and grudges do? It opens us up to all kinds of temptations and sin. Holding a grudge never ever results in what we think it will. Instead of harming the other person, it harms our own souls and opens us up to sin. Ironic, isn’t it?

We want to harm others, but we end up harming ourselves. But let us also think about the gospel implications involved here that we set aside a moment ago.

Recall to your mind the “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” told by Jesus in Matthew 18 in response to Peter asking the question “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus responds, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” In other words, “Stop keeping score!”

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