Carrying a Grudge
When I was in high school I dated a guy who stole from me, lied to me, and completely disrespected me. He was my parent’s greatest nightmare. He was the catalyst for constant tension in my home and the reason for many tears on my pillow. Though this young man caused a great deal of pain in my life, I can honestly say that I have no ill feelings toward him. We were teenagers. As an adult, I can look back at memories of a young man who had no father to teach him how men are supposed to treat women. I can imagine a scared and angry young man who wanted others to feel as scared and angry as he did. I realize that harboring a grudge can be paralyzing, and forgiveness can be freeing.
I ran into someone recently that was very verbal about a grudge they had been carrying for many years. No, it wasn’t against an old high school beau. It was against a church – a church they felt had “done them wrong.” This individual went into great detail of exactly what had happened and then proceeded to malign the beliefs of the denomination and the character of the people. Though the event that caused such great consternation occurred years earlier, it was as if the “wound” had been received that very day.
It is natural that our past contributes to who we are today, but we have a choice of what we do with all of life experiences – be they good or bad. Just as we benefit from the unconditional love of a parent or the affirming words of a mentor, we can learn from those whose intent is not so thoughtful. Learn to be patient from those who were impatient with you. Learn to be gracious from those who were unkind. Learn the importance of teaching your children about healthy dating relationships from those who were never given those tools.
Chances are the person or church you are obsessing about has moved on. Maybe they realize what they did was wrong . . . maybe not. But it is destructive and harmful to find your identity in what you perceive people have “done to you.” Instead of allowing past experiences to define you, finding a way to forgive is one of the first steps toward healing your life. Paul’s words to the Philippians is wise counsel for us today, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)
For those of us who are followers of Jesus, he has called us to a higher purpose. But it’s entirely possible we won’t ever understand or discover what it is if we remain paralyzed in the past. Though it may have brought some kind of comfort for a long time, it’s time to set down the “baggage” and realize the work God has for you can’t be done if you’re constantly dragging it along. I think what Paul is saying is, “It’s time to pick up the pieces . . . reframe your story . . . forgive . . . and allow a healing God to reveal the purpose He has for you.”
Note: Please understand that my words are not directed to someone who has been involved in an illegal act. If that is the case, though I do believe that pursuing forgiveness and not allowing the experience to define you are essential to healing, I also believe that justice should absolutely be found, and professional counseling should be pursued.