The Grudge Disease
“In Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down,” Sheryl Giesbrecht shares her personal story of triumph over tragedy to help readers understand they cannot only survive their adversities, but thrive.
As much as we would like it to be, life is not always easy or fair for Christ followers. Giesbrecht learned this truth firsthand but also discovered that from the depths of past pain, it is possible to be raised up. It is possible to exchange hurt for hope. Trusting God in the midst of a life turned upside down is essential for survival, and climbing out of the pits of despair would be impossible without Him. God is capable of taking our losses and mistakes and turning them into something remarkably beautiful if we just let Him.
In the excerpt below, Giesbrecht writes about the importance of forgiveness and giving up grudges as we get back up after life knocks us down.
Holding onto grudges is self-deception. We believe we can control situations by refusing to let go. This doesn’t damage the person we are “begrudging” as much as it damages us. Max Lucado said, “Grudges are the cocaine of anger, they require more and more hate to keep it alive.” Resentments are like a cancer. They multiply and intrude on our mental health, relationships and sound sleep. That kind of holding on can become an addiction.
Letting go of a grudge is good for your health. Grudges increase tension and stress, deplete energy, cause isolation and prevent old wounds from healing. Grudges steal joy, disrupt sleep, and harden hearts and arteries. Such bitter emotions can even get in the way of prayers. Resentment keeps us in chains unless we recognize it as bitterness. Give up the grudge and our right to get even, and we will gain peace, sound mind and a restful sleep.
We can train our minds to refuse to keep score of the wrongs others have committed against us through the power of God’s word. Remember that 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). We must not keep lists of anything that has hurt, angered, offended or wronged us. It’s only through God’s power this is possible. Evagrius Ponticus said, “Resentment casts a cloud over your prayers … if you collect injuries and resentments and think you can still pray, you would probably put water in a bucket full of holes!”
We give God permission to do whatever He wants with us when we choose forgiveness instead of bitterness. This is one of the most difficult steps of faith we will ever take. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude.” Forgiveness should actually begin at the time of the offense. Forgiveness is the only way to follow God in faith.
It helps to take these four steps toward getting rid of the grudge.
Step 1: Confess it
We must agree with God about our sin. Blunt honesty can be difficult. It takes a little time to sort out injured feelings. It is essential before we can be healed of an unforgiving spirit. Consider Romans 2:4: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of his kingdom and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (NIV). We show God how we respond to His loving kindness through a sincere desire to get rid of the grudge. The result: in good conscience we admit our sin and humbly repent.
Step 2: Let go of it
We must release our hurt and hate to God. This means giving up our control of the situation and its outcome to Him. We choose to release the offending person when we give him over to our Heavenly Father. Letting go of the grudge means we are choosing not to hold a person accountable for the debt we feel he owes.
Step 3: Name it
Dr. Neil T. Anderson said, “Unless forgiveness visits the core of your emotions, it is incomplete.” God has wired us with a need to constantly get rid of pent-up hurt and hate. This purging of the soul restores our right relationship with Him; it’s good for us spiritually, physically and emotionally. We allow Him to do a deep work in us when we name the emotion, identify our feelings and privately turn them over to God.
Someone at work, for instance, has made a sarcastic, hurtful comment. You feel hostile, bitter and resentful. Those are attitudes God wants our permission to change in us. He can change us by exposing our weaknesses; if we are sensitive to Him and cooperate with His will, He can use times of struggle for His glory. He can make us better instead of bitter.
I recommend using a simple prayer I learned from Dr. Neil T. Anderson to help you understand and experience how forgiveness can visit the core of your emotions. It goes like this: “Dear God, I forgive (fill in the person’s name)_______________for making me feel (describe how you felt at the time of the offense. List every emotion, allowing God to mentally take you back to the time it happened) _______________.”
Ask God to help you forgive every painful memory and every person associated with it. And then close with this prayer: “Lord, I release all these people into Your hands. I relinquish my right to seek revenge. I choose not to hold on to the hurt and the hate. I let go of my anger and bitterness. Please heal my damaged emotions. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”
Step 4: Believe it
We give ourselves a gift when we receive God’s forgiveness. Have you ever asked God to forgive you, and He’s said, “No, sorry, you’ve run out of forgiveness coupons for today.” Absolutely not! Jesus was asked, “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Not seven times, but 77 times” (Matthew 18:21-22 [NIV]). God will always forgive us, and, in the same way, we must forgive others.
By Sheryl Giesbrecht