Do Not Harbor a Grudge
EVERYONE seemed to be having a good time at a party when the man of the house arrived. He was greeted enthusiastically by all—by all except one. Why? Because months before at a farewell party the man of the house had ignored this man’s outstretched hand. He certainly was nursing a grudge, and how unhappy it made him every time he saw the object of his grudge!
Do you at times cherish resentment by harboring a grudge, and so find yourself unhappy when all around you others seem to be enjoying themselves?
How unwise! In fact, there are ever so many reasons why we should heed the Bible’s counsel not to harbor grudges: “You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against the sons of your people; and you must love your fellow as yourself. I am Jehovah.”—Lev. 19:18.
For one thing, you cannot nurse a grudge against a person without disliking that one, and dislike can well turn to hate. What does the Bible say about that? “Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer.” (1 John 3:15) In fact, it can turn to actual murder, as in the case of two survivors of a bus crash in Belém, Brazil. They fought it out with knives, with the result that one was killed and the other was arrested on the charge of murder.—New York Times, July 21, 1972.
The Bible gives ever so many examples of what a grudge can cause. To mention but one, there was Esau. He nursed a murderous grudge against his brother Jacob because Jacob got the firstborn’s blessing, which Esau had sold to him. Because of this, Jacob fled to his uncle Laban until, as his mother Rebekah put it, “the rage of your brother calms down.” And, no doubt, had not Jacob done so, Esau, in his chagrin at not having received the firstborn’s blessing from his father Isaac, would have killed him. As it was, when they first met again after twenty years, Esau had a change of heart, for we read that ‘Esau went running to meet him and fell upon his neck and kissed him, and they burst into tears.’—Gen. 27:41-45; 33:4.
We may feel that we have been wronged. Maybe we were, or we might be mistaken. Yet if we do not “take vengeance” against the one who seemingly wronged us, in time the wound may well heal and we will be able to “let bygones be bygones.”
But how much better to be like Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob! Some of his brothers harbored a grudge against him because he was his father’s favorite (and because of the dreams he had that indicated that they would bow down to him), and they were ready to kill him. But due to Judah’s intervention he was sold into slavery instead, and eventually landed in prison because of a false charge against him. But did he nurse a grudge against his brothers because of all this evil that came upon him? Not at all. When the tables were turned and they were at his mercy, instead of taking vengeance, Joseph freely forgave them.—Gen. 45:1-8; 50:15-21.
Who do you want to be like? Like those who nursed a grudge to the point of wanting to kill, or like Joseph, who was forgiving and merciful?
There are various reasons why one may nurse a grudge. One may feel offended because another made an uncalled-for and an uncomplimentary remark. Or one may have been slighted or ignored when one wanted to show friendliness. Or one may feel hurt because of seemingly having been reproved unjustly or too severely.
Suppose you have heard another make an uncomplimentary remark about you. Could it be that there is a measure of truth in the remark and that is why it hurt you so much? If it was wholly uncalled for, why not exercise charity and be forgiving, giving the other the benefit of the doubt? After he said it he may have realized that it would have been better left unsaid, but still he shrinks from admitting that fact to you. Call to mind Jesus’ counsel that, unless we forgive others their trespasses against us, God will not forgive us our trespasses against him.—Matt. 6:12-15; 18:23-35.
Or has someone slighted, ignored or rebuffed you? Once a Christian woman up in years approached an elder in a Christian congregation and asked him why he had slighted her, if he held anything against her, and if so, what was it. He was flabbergasted, as this Christian woman was one of his best friends and he thought highly of her. He had not been aware of his ever having slighted her, in fact, he had always been glad to see her. But this incident, in turn, caused him to reflect. For long he had borne a grudge against another when he himself was slighted—seemingly. He now realized that he could have been just as mistaken as she was.
There is also the case of reproof that we might feel was uncalled for or was too severe. This brings to mind what a humorist once related. At times his father spanked him for something he had not done. When he complained, his father responded: ‘Well, that was for the time you did something for which you should have gotten a spanking and didn’t get one.’ We all must admit that we have transgressed time and again without being reproved for it. Then, too, there may have been extenuating circumstances that caused the one in charge to be overly severe; or it may well be that his sense of righteousness is stronger than ours. Put yourself in his place, and you will be able to forgive and forget.
So, guard against harboring grudges. Do not be quick to take offense, “for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.” (Eccl. 7:9) You cannot harbor a grudge without hurting both yourself and others. And you are likely not only to hurt yourself physically but also to harm your spiritual well-being. You cannot enjoy good relations with God unless you also have good relations with your Christian brother. In fact, our love for God is tested by our love for our brothers. As the loving apostle John so forcefully put it: “He who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, 21) So be wise, be just, be loving, and you will not harbor a grudge.