How to Release the Pain of Betrayal

Today, we’re going to tackle grudges against other people. Everyone has things they hold on to from growing up. Most of them come from their parents or siblings. Some come from a teacher or childhood friend. As we grow, we collect events that have shaped us for better or worse. We gather up these memories and let them tell us who we are as people and what our worth is. Did that boy tell you he loved you just to get in bed with you and then dump you, causing you to either forsake men or try too hard to please them? Did your teacher tell you that you were stupid and you believed her and so never excelled in school again? Did your father never pay attention to any of your accomplishments and miss all your big moments, causing you to be a hard-driving, achievement-oriented perfectionist?

We take these rejections and betrayals and let them determine our value. Think about most of your grudges, especially your deep, long-standing ones. They’re not against the teacher who gave you a D when you thought you deserved at least a C or the cop you pulled you over for a ticket. Most of them are against the people who knew you and rejected you, who abused your trust and made you feel badly about yourself. If these people hadn’t made you feel badly about yourself, you wouldn’t hold the grudge against them.

Here’s the good news: it’s your fault. If you have a grudge against someone for how they made you feel, it’s on you for letting them make you feel badly about yourself. Nobody can make you feel you are worse than you already fear you are. This makes grudges a question not of fault, but of identity. If your identity is in who you are in Christ, in your status as a son or daughter of God, then it will not matter what anyone else thinks of you. If your grudges are there because you’ve decided to let others control how you feel about yourself, then changing how you feel about yourself can erase those grudges.

I know, I know, it’s not as easy as saying, “I’m a son or daughter of God, so everyone’s forgiven. Yay! Happy day!” Some of these hurts go deeper than you have even explored. I’m an introspective person by nature and I have spent countless hours analyzing myself and relationships with those I am close to, yet when I started analyzing some of the deep hurts in my life, I found that the things I had always blamed were just part of the puzzle. The actions I had found so offensive were not the entire reason for the grudge; it was the reason behind those actions, things I hadn’t even considered consciously at the time, that really offended me.

The important thing is that no matter how harsh the rejection, no matter how undeserved the abandonment, I wouldn’t have been offended if I truly saw myself as God sees me.

Jesus was not the peace-sign-flashing, robe-wearing hippie some people have made Him out to be. He got mad. He chased people out of the temple with a whip, turning over their tables and making a huge mess. He called the Pharisees white-washed tombs, hypocrites, blind guides, and a brood of vipers all in the span of 21 verses in Matthew 23. He grew frustrated with the disciples on several occasions for their lack of faith. Yet in all this, He was never once angry that people refused to fall down and worship Him, as was His due. He was humble when they called Him names, spit on Him, and beat Him. He did not lash out when they were whipping Him and nailing Him to the cross. And He went out to make peace with Peter after Peter had denied Him three times in the course of just a few hours and then run away. Jesus had a perfect knowledge of who He was in God, and therefore, there was never a reason for Him to be personally offended.

A secondary aspect of this is how you see other people. If you think the worst of people, that’s often what you’ll see. People can be phenomenal at finding evidence to support their conclusions. We do it with everyone we hold a grudge against. When you have something against someone and then see them walking toward you with a smile, your first thought is, “Oh, crap. What do they want now?” isn’t it? It doesn’t matter whether what they ask of you is completely reasonable; you don’t want to do it and you think they have some ulterior motive. You’ve already found them guilty without giving them a chance because you have something against them.

You don’t really even have to have a grudge against this particular person to do this, either. At my last job, I had a grudge against the salespeople based primarily on the actions of two of them. I didn’t like how they seemed to care about money more than anything else, despite making more than just about anyone in the company. It made me view each successive salesperson we hired in the same light. I was just waiting for them to ask about a commission so I could lump them in with everyone else. When they did, I ascribed to them the same label and faults as I had to the other salespeople, however unjustly.

Now, to be fair, if someone has deeply wounded you, it is right to be wary of trusting them again. If you’ve been abused, don’t go back to that person until you’re absolutely sure they’ve changed. That said, it’s not really forgiveness if you’re constantly assuming the worst about people. For example, if you believe all men are liars or all women are conniving and manipulative, then you have a grudge against someone that you need to address. It’s true and fair to say some men have lied and some women have manipulated, but to apply a label that those people in particular can never shake is unfair, much less applying that label to the entire gender.

There are other reasons we carry grudges, though. Someone may have hurt a loved one, for example. For this, I would ask why a hurt done to this person is worse than one done to someone you don’t know? Is this person more valuable simply because you know them? Because you love them? God loves everyone equally. It’s God’s opinion that matters and He decided to let this happen. It may be very hard to accept, especially right after something terrible happens, but God is still a good God and has a plan for everything He allows to happen, even though we will often not see it at the time. There is a purpose, and you have to trust that God will work it out for your good and theirs (if they’re Christian) in the end.

As for the person who did the harming, Jesus forgave those who had whipped Him, beaten Him, pushed a crown of thorns on His head, nailed Him to a cross, and were spitting on Him and mocking Him as He died for their sins. Unless the wrong done to you is worse than this (and there’s no way it could ever be), you are commanded to forgive as well.

Or perhaps you hate injustices in general. You hear about Joseph Kony and get furious with him over what he’s done. While he certainly should answer for his crimes, your grudge against him serves no purpose. It only serves to give you a burden and feed your hate.

Perhaps more importantly, this goes back to the fact that killing a cockroach is a lesser offense than spitting in someone’s face. Whatever Kony or anyone else has done, the penalty is and should be less (from human hands) than what you should have gotten from God for every time you’ve chosen yourself over Him. Remember, all of our sins are primarily against God, not each other.

Some people develop grudges against others for sins they hate, even when those sins aren’t done against them. Usually, the sins I develop a grudge over are the very ones I wish I was committing. My roommates at one house professed to be Christian, yet two of them were sleeping with their fiancées almost every night. My anger was based more on jealousy since I wanted to have sex but had been saving myself for marriage (and made it, too, with just a few hours to spare J ). I was seeing God’s laws as restrictions rather than as rules that are for our best interests.

Even if your anger is not based on a sin you wish you were committing, why do you believe it is your place to change others, particularly non-Christians? Yes, we are called to confront other believers, but only in love, not because of a grudge. For non-Christians, Jesus never demanded that others be perfect before He accepted them. There’s an old story about a pastor who was fishing and talking to God about how he wanted to bring more people into church and get their lives right. God’s response was, “You catch ‘em, I’ll clean ‘em.” As Christians, we’re called to walk in love, not vindictive self-righteousness. It is God’s place to work on people’s hearts, not yours to judge them.

Lastly, some of you may have grudges against people not for any sin, but for being a general annoyance. It might be someone at the office who doesn’t seem to know when to end a conversation or the barista who always messes up your order. You have to let go of these things, too, and you might even owe the person an apology. What they did is not wrong; what you’re doing by holding a grudge is. The Bible does give us some groups of people we should avoid, but “those who getteth thine goat” isn’t among them. Let it go and, if you need to, ask God for patience and perhaps an opportunity to tactfully bring it up.

Whatever the offense, God’s way of handling all of these is to help you be so strong in who you are in Him that not only do you have no feelings of resentment or rejection when you’re mistreated, but that you see other people the same way He sees them. This will be hard to hear and harder still to understand, but God loves Hitler, you, and John the Baptist equally. It’s undeniable that John the Baptist did far more for God’s kingdom than Hitler, but God’s love isn’t based on works. It’s based on our being His creation, each of us a unique bit of art, a child who has become lost and who He’s eager to see return to Him.

This is how we’re to see others. When we do, we will lose the grudges we hold against them far more easily because we’ll realize that those who are hurting us are injuring themselves more deeply. God loves them and wants them to be free of their pain as much as He wants you to be free of yours. Even knowing that most of each sin is against Him, He loves them, and you should, too.

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How to Forgive the Fiend in the Mirror

For many of us, the deepest grudge we hold is against ourselves. We can ignore it or pass off the blame on others, but we know it’s there, eating away at us with all the things we’ve done and all our missed opportunities. It tears at our self-confidence, telling us that we’re bound to fail again, that we’ve learned nothing from all of our past mistakes and are thus doomed to repeat them.

There are three types of things you hold against yourself: simply being who you are, the mistakes you’ve committed, and missed opportunities.

The first is a difficult one because even though it’s often based in failures or missed opportunities of some sort, it goes beyond that to a general feeling of worthlessness, to a sense that even if you had not committed a certain sin or had jumped on an opportunity, you still wouldn’t be successful. This feeling of unworthiness is actually at the heart of both your sins and your missed opportunities, making you sabotage yourself so you can collect evidence to prove you’re nothing.

It sounds crazy to hear it put like that, but I did it for years. I was terrible around women, but instead of learning from my mistakes, I’d proudly display each successive failure in a mental trophy case. It was a sick cycle, with my belief in certain failure causing more failure, which then strengthened my belief in yet more future failure.

And in much of this, I blamed God. I couldn’t find anything wrong with what I was doing, and so I reasoned it must be a part of who I was. Since He made me, I blamed Him almost as much as I blamed myself. Blaming Him removed some small amount of the hatred from me, but kept me from seeing His wisdom and blinded me to what I was doing, to myself and those around me.

I used to have a false image of God as some cruel tyrant who made me as some sort of sick joke. He is now my loving Father, my King, my Teacher, and much more. And I am not the cruel joke. In fact, there is nothing wrong with the way He made me. I am His beloved son, valuable enough that Jesus would have come to earth and died just for me. I am formed specifically this way for a purpose, one that I am so grateful God has revealed to me. I am His, now and forever, and He is my Father, my everything in this world.

God has a purpose for making you the way He did as well, whether your purpose is in your talents or so He can use you as He did with Moses or Gideon, making His strength perfect in your weakness. God has a use for you if you will let Him work in your life. Realizing this will help you let go of any grudge you have against yourself for being the way He made you. Embracing your future in Christ is the only way to truly let go of the past.

It’s important to separate these things you don’t like about yourself into two categories: things that are actually wrong and things that aren’t. For example, my lack of confidence was horribly wrong. Not only was it ruining my life, but it was a slap in the face to God to say that He had messed up when He created me or that He was cruel in intentionally making me a failure.

For the other category, these are things that make you who you are, such as being a melancholy. There is no right or wrong in being introverted or extroverted, being melancholy rather than phlegmatic, having one love language instead of another, or not liking certain things. You need to embrace who you are. God does.

The second category of grudges against yourself is for sins you have committed. Every last sin is worthy of eternal separation from God. The good news, though, is that Jesus has already taken your punishment for you.

Imagine that you had done something terrible, worthy of being beheaded. There’s no doubt about your guilt, and you’re sentenced to death. Then the judge offers to take your place on the chopping block. This man only asks that the jury give him a year before carrying out the execution, so he can see what kind of person you’ve become with your new life.

Do you really believe your benefactor wants to see you muddle through that next year, continually kicking yourself and not trying to do anything with your life? No, he’d want you to wake up whistling every morning because you’ve been forgiven, because someone else was willing to take your punishment. The law doesn’t affect you anymore because the debt has been paid, so why should you live like you are still in chains? This man would want you to make the very most of the life he has restored to you.

God doesn’t want you to live under the burdens of your past sins. He is willing to forgive you, to erase all of them. He died to set you free, so why would He want you to live in bondage?

No child of the King should ever be beating themselves up over something or calling themselves worthless. To do so is a sin against both God and yourself. Everything has already been forgiven by the One whose opinion matters.

Consider this aspect of the cross for a moment: Jesus was on it only once. One sacrifice for all sins, for your entire life, and for everyone who believes in Him.

Not only does this mean you’re forgiven no matter how many times you’ve messed up, it means that God isn’t looking for evidence against you. If He was, He wouldn’t have to look for very long and just one sin would doom us for eternity. He’s not looking to harm you; He sent His Son to die to save you.

Right now, think of the very worst thing you have ever done in your life. However painful it is to think of, however horrible and despicable it was, concentrate on it for a moment. Now realize that according to God, that never happened, that your sin has been washed away and you are free. When God looks at you, He sees someone as spotless as His Son. Is it more than you deserve? Without question. Is it more than you could ever hope to repay? Absolutely. Is it still yours just for the asking? Yes.

There is conviction when we sin, a feeling of guilt that drives us to repentance. Once you have repented, though, there should be no more shame. To say that shame should remain is to say that Jesus’ blood is strong enough to wash out only part of the sin, that He can wash away the spiritual effects, but not the emotional ones. He died so you could be completely free, not just partially free.

If you’re holding a grudge against yourself, you’re saying that your life has been messed up by your actions or inactions past the point of God’s ability to restore you. Not only is sin an indictment of a lack of faith in God, but so is unforgiveness. It takes realizing that God can fix anything for you to be able to truly forgive yourself.

It’s not easy to forgive yourself of your sins, but what is much harder for most people is realizing Jesus died to free them from their missed opportunities as well.

Most people have that one person in their life that they’ve had a really deep crush on yet never pursued or that one opportunity they knew they should have gone for but didn’t. It’s a horrible feeling looking back on it because you always wonder what could have been had things been just a little different, if you had said or done something a different way or at a better time or if you had been bolder.

For me, the one that got away was the opportunity to go to my first-choice college. I ended up at another school instead, where I was offered a floor leadership position my freshman year if I’d move to a different floor. It was a rare honor, but I declined, not even knowing why I said no.

I became friends with a guy on my floor who eventually got me a job in Virginia, where I was blessed with enough money to pursue writing as a career. Had I moved off, it’s unlikely he and I would ever have become friends, so I wouldn’t have gotten that job and likely wouldn’t have made as much money in any job I did find.

By passing up one opportunity, God opened another, which led me down the path He wanted me to take to get where I am today. I certainly made some decisions along the way that were outside His will, but He knew the decisions I would make and planned things to bring me where He wanted me anyway. All of the other opportunities I passed up and all the ones I should have passed up but didn’t weren’t enough to take me from His plan for my life. I don’t know how things would have worked out had I gone to the other school or moved off the floor, but I know now God had a plan for me that whole time.

Think about the one that got away from you, be it a person, job, or other opportunity. Now realize that you’re idealizing it in your head. You don’t know what would have happened in 99% of the cases and in the very small chance you do, you don’t know that it would have been better off for you. Most lottery winners are back at their jobs with no money in less than two years. No person you’ve set your eyes on is perfect. And every job comes with its bad days. The certainty is that if it is not in God’s will, it will lead you to a worse place than He would.

Even if that thing you wanted was as good as you’d imagined, your life with it would still be worse for you in the end than if you had followed God’s will for you. Why? Because God’s will has something that nothing else does: more of God.

God: The First Grudge to Go

The first grudge you need to let go of is the one you have against God. How do you view God? Do you feel He’s let you down in the past, that praying is like rolling the dice? If you don’t have faith in Him to always do what’s best for you, it’s very likely you are harboring a grudge against Him.

Consider Adam and Eve in the garden. They were sinless until the serpent gave them something to hold against God. He had held out on them, and that was something they didn’t like, so they briefly had a bone to pick with God, a bone large enough that they disobeyed God and changed the course of humanity.

What makes this particular grudge curious is that you can’t forgive God because He’s done nothing wrong to you. He’s never sinned against you, hurt you, or plotted against you. There’s been no betrayal or abandonment. God is the only one you’ve ever gotten close to who hasn’t done anything bad to you at all. He’s always been on your side and His mercies are new every morning. He forgets our sins willingly and protects us.

Also, God doesn’t owe you any sort of explanation for what He does. He is bigger than the Universe He created, more powerful than you can hope to fathom, and infinitely wiser than all of the people who have ever lived combined. Who are you, that He should be mindful of you? (Psalm 8:4) It’s not wrong to seek to understand why things are happening to you, but some Christians get this attitude that God owes them an explanation, that He somehow serves them. It’s the most arrogant attitude possible. All you have earned from God is eternal separation from Him; the salvation He’s offered, much less anything beyond that, is a gift, given solely because He’s decided to love you.

If you are angry at God, you are actually sinning against Him because you are unjustly accusing Him of being anything less than holy, loving, and righteous. Not only are you questioning Him when you don’t have and could never earn that right, you are judging Him and finding Him unworthy. You need to not only let go of your grudge against Him, but apologize for having a grudge against Him in the first place.

Of all the grudges you carry, the most important one to let go of is the one against God, even more important than the grudge you carry against yourself. The reason is that though you can love someone you have a grudge against, you can’t want to draw closer to that person. You don’t want to be around someone you’re angry with or someone you don’t trust at all. The only way to want to draw closer is to let the grudge go.

You need a strong relationship with God, not just because He is the most important relationship in your life, but because it is only when you are close to Him that you can have enough faith in how He sees you for it to transform your life, which is necessary if you’re going to forgive anyone else.

So why do we carry grudges against Him? Because our understanding is limited. When I was young, a well-meaning pastor said that if we were righteous, God would answer our prayers. I did my absolute best, but most of my prayers went unanswered.

When it didn’t work, I took the promises of God to be a load of bunk. I stopped praying, stopped reading the Bible, and stopped paying attention in church. When I got to college, I rarely went to church. There was no desire to draw closer to God because I didn’t think He heard me or cared about my family. I reasoned that if my prayers were falling on deaf ears, why should I get to know the Being ignoring me?

This developed into a deep hatred of God. It wasn’t just the things I had prayed for growing up, it was being in my mid-20s without ever having a girlfriend while my friends seemed to be in a new relationship every couple of months. It was people in my company getting promoted faster than I was, despite not working as hard. I felt He’d let me down not just by ignoring my prayers, but by making me a complete failure.

It wasn’t until five years after I graduated college that I began to slowly change, to start opening up to God again. Once He started chipping away at my walls, I knew that there was a lot of growing that I had to do. I was a stubborn student and my heart deceived me more times than I can count.

Yet God was with me through all of it. He never left me, never stopped loving me, and never stopped leading me. With endless patience and unwavering grace, He kept drawing me closer little by little, teaching me something whenever I asked Him to, even when it was a lesson He’d taught me dozens of times before.

Through this teaching process, my anger at God lessened somewhat, but my love for Him didn’t increase much. The grudge was still there, even if the fury of it had somewhat subsided. Despite all the abuse I piled on Him, He never failed to be there for me. He loved me in spite of myself, and it was realizing this that finally helped me let this grudge go and start loving Him again.

There are still a few areas where my trust in God is not as strong as it should be. I still worry about finances from time to time and I still let some things upset me that shouldn’t. These are signs of a lack of faith in God’s goodness (since I have complete faith in His power), which are likely related to a hidden grudge that I have not fully explored. There is something in my past that still whispers that God may let me down like I believed He had.

There are two reasons I mention this last part. The first is that getting rid of this grudge against God is a very deep and potentially long process. It is not enough to say, “Oh, God hasn’t done me any wrong, so I trust Him completely now.” It’s incredibly unlikely that you will trust Him in everything after just that.

Instead, examine the areas of your life carefully, one at a time. For each, ask whether you’re trying to make it on your own or trusting God fully. Be brutally honest with yourself. For every area you find where you haven’t given yourself over to God, ask why it is difficult for you to trust Him completely. The answer is almost certainly some instance where you feel He let you or someone else you know down.

A second reason may be that you aren’t used to relying on God; it may be more of a lack of knowledge about who God really is rather than a grudge against Him. The same lack of faith can still be a problem, however, if you feel abandoned in a particular area. For example, if your father ran out on you, leaving your mother to support the family alone, it may be difficult for you to trust God with your finances because you remember the hard times your family had. Feelings of mistrust from one party can be applied to another, but when we apply them to God, we sin because we are indirectly accusing Him of being no better than the person who harmed us.

Instead, we need to think of all the times He’s been there for us, even before we became Christians, and learn what the Bible says about His faithfulness and goodness. Only when we have let go of our grudge against Him can we trust and love Him the way we should. We need to trust Him so we can believe what He says about us, and we need to believe what He says about us so we can forgive ourselves and others.

The Grudge List: Your Path to Forgiveness

Today, I’m going to give you a very useful tool to aid you in forgiving everyone. First, though, let’s talk about what sin is. Sin is any thought you dwell on or any action that is against God’s will. God created the Universe and all that is in it; therefore, it is His rules we are under. It’s not a sin to be tempted, to have a thought flit through your head, but it is a sin to dwell on it and imagine yourself giving into that temptation.

We can wrong others, but even then, our sins are 99% against God. Imagine that you had a golden retriever puppy named Goldie (because you’re so original with names) and someone, even a good friend, comes over and kicks your puppy. Not on accident, just being a jerk. Even thought the dog is wronged and nothing was done directly against you, you still take offense because you care about Goldie. She’s yours, and so the offense done against her is taken personally as one against you.

How much more so do you think God takes it when we wrong His sons and daughters or even non-Christians, since He loves us all?

Also, when we wrong each other, we’re breaking God’s will because He tells us to love each other. This makes our wrongs against each other sins against the Creator of the Universe. Just as stepping on a roach is a lesser crime than spitting on another person, so is anything we do to each other compared to the crime of disobeying Him.

I mention this because we all need to be forgiven of our sins. There are no perfect people on this earth, so we all need forgiveness and grace. And, as I wrote yesterday, God will only forgive us if we forgive others.

But not all of the things that we take offense at are sins, are they? There’s the woman who gets in the express checkout lane with 19 items instead of 15, the coworker with the annoying laugh, or the guy with no social skills whatsoever. These things may get on our nerves, but they’re not sins. We need to let go of these grudges, too.

So, how do we let them go?

The best way I have found is by using what I call the ‘Grudge List.’ To make one, start by writing down the names of everyone you can remember. I recommend going by periods in your life (grade school, high school, early 20’s, etc.), then by location (church, school, work, neighborhood, family) so you don’t miss anybody. If you remember a person, but not their name, write down enough of a description so you can remember them when you go through this list.

Next, go through each name on this list and think about the person for a moment. If you have any negative feelings about them, write their name on another list. This is the beginning of your Grudge List.

On your Grudge List, for each name that made the cut, write down all of the offenses you can remember and how they made you feel. Resist the urge to sum up; be specific so you can let go of all the wrongs done to you. It will take time, but it’s better to do a thorough cleansing than a light rinse. Don’t be overly nice here, either. They won’t read this unless you show it to them, so say what’s really on your mind. You can lose the benefit of this exercise by not being completely honest.

Next, write down your own sins against the person. I highly recommend this because it will let you see that you were wrong, too. Don’t put in any statements like, “I wouldn’t have done this if you hadn’t started it,” or, “It may not be as bad as what you did to me, but…” This is the time for you to just admit to yourself that you were wrong, regardless of who started it. You’ll be able to see the argument better from the other person’s point of view, too. Doing this will help ward off the pride that is sure to fight you.

Finally, write a statement of forgiveness for each person. Keep out language such as, “You may have cheated on me, but I have someone way better now, so I can finally forgive you.” Your forgiveness can’t be based on what’s happened in your life since the event; in fact, that’s part of the point. You have to forgive based on what Jesus did for you 2,000 years ago. Forgive because you’ve been forgiven of so much more.

Doing this once probably won’t get rid of all the negative feelings you have against everyone, so you may have to keep going through it. Each time you do, though, it should get a little easier. Some of the minor grudges you may be able to cross off immediately, some may take months (and might still pop up years after you thought you’d forgiven them). Just have patience and keep reminding yourself of what Jesus has done for you…if you forgive as He’s forgiven you.

Why We Should Forgive and Why We Must Forgive

One of the biggest barriers to having real self-confidence is holding on to grudges. Most of us have grudges against God, ourselves, and others and we need to let them all go before we can enjoy the confidence God wants us to have. All this week, I’ll be posting on forgiveness, starting with why we should forgive and why we must forgive.

There is a quote attributed in a variety of forms to various people that reads, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” When you hold a grudge against someone else, you’re doing far more harm to yourself than to them.

Unforgiveness will affect you negatively in several ways:

1. It will take your time, energy, and focus off of God and the things you should be focused on. There was one woman I was interested in during college who gave me a rather harsh, public rejection. I replayed over and over in my head what I wish I’d said for years after, getting angry again at both of us. That time could have been better spent doing almost anything else: reading the Bible, praying, writing, editing, working out, or even sleeping. All my grudge did was waste time and make me angry.

Think about your grudges for a second. How much time do you devote to them? Are you daydreaming of getting even? Are you seething? Do you automatically get angry whenever you’re around that person?

This is neither healthy nor productive. It is stealing time and energy away from God, your job, relationships, family, and other important things in your life. And honestly, would you rather think about something that makes you happy or something that makes you miserable and angry?

2. It will prevent you from moving forward in the relationship in which you have a grudge. You cannot want to grow closer to someone or love them more deeply when you are angry with them. You have to let go of that grudge for the relationship to become closer. This is true of all relationships, whether with other people, God, or even yourself. You cannot force yourself through this barrier by spending more time with that person, either. Trying to force it will only deepen the grudge because your mind will keep turning back to it. The only way to deepen the relationship is to forgive that person.

3. It will get in the way of future relationships. When we hold grudges, it’s very difficult to only be angry with the person who wronged us. You’ve heard this before when your friend breaks up with someone and decries all men or women or when your boss upsets you and you vent against bosses in general. We tend to stereotype people and get mad at the lot of them, rather than just the ones with whom we’ve any right to be angry. When we do this, we make false or unfounded accusations and these get in the way of building healthy, solid relationships.

4. As Christians, we are called to be one body. Ever wake up in the middle of the night, stumble toward the bathroom, and find furniture with your toe? It hurts, but do you cut your toe off so it won’t happen again? Of course not!

Why, then, do we not do this within the church? When we refuse to forgive each other, we act like the world does. If the Gospel we’re bragging about isn’t enough to make us radically different than everyone else and help us rise above the petty concerns that so much of the world is bogged down in, then how can we expect them to want to become Christians?

Moreover, those in the church are our brothers and sisters. They should be people we love and always forgive. In Matthew 18, Peter asks how many times he’s supposed to forgive his brother and offers seven times. Jesus says it should be seventy times seven. That’s not a literal number, but Jesus was telling him as often as Peter’s brother sinned against him, Peter should forgive him.

5. Unforgiveness is an indictment of our faith in God to fix whatever mess we’re in. God doesn’t just let us suffer for the fun of it. He doesn’t allow things to be taken from us because He’s asleep on the job. He allows these things for a reason. When the New Testament apostles were beaten and imprisoned, they weren’t given fine new houses and bags of gold, but they were given something even better: a deeper relationship with God. They piled up treasures in Heaven as well, but even on earth, they got something that no earthly treasure could buy them.             God does not allow things to be taken from us unless He intends to give us something better. Even when He’s taking things from us as a chastisement for our sins or because they’re not good for us, the end result is taking something from us that was between us and Him. We get more of Him, more of what we desperately need. When we refuse to forgive, we’re telling God we don’t believe He’ll work all things out in the end for our good, meaning that the person who hurt us is more powerful than His ability to restore us.

6. Lastly, it is arrogant to put yourself above God. In the United States, the President has the power to issue a full pardon to anyone. Imagine a murderer in Texas is on death row and the President issues such a pardon. The man’s crimes are all exonerated. It’s as if he hadn’t even gotten a speeding ticket. Then some guard decides to punish this guy anyway, so instead of freeing him, he hauls him off to the execution chamber and injects the shot himself. He is no longer a government-sanctioned executioner, but a criminal himself, guilty of murder. Why? Because that man on death row, whatever he had done, had been pardoned and is now deemed innocent. The President’s forgiveness of him matters more than that guard’s opinion or even the facts of the case.

When we hold a grudge against other people, we’re essentially telling them they owe us for something that God has already forgiven. That puts us above God, saying that our opinion of their wrongdoing is more important than God’s opinion of it. We put ourselves in the Throne of Judgment, which is God’s place alone. And then we further profane it by using it to judge others according to what they have done to us rather than with God’s mercy and a remembrance that all sins are done primarily against Him.

Not only that, we’re saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough to wash out that person’s sins because that person doesn’t have our forgiveness. Think of the preposterous arrogance of this: Jesus, part of the Trinity, God Himself, is not powerful enough to wash out someone’s sins, but the forgiveness of you, a fallen, weak, petty human is? You not only set yourself up as God when you don’t forgive, you trample Jesus’ sacrifice as not good enough.

All of these are reasons that we should forgive. Are they the reason we must forgive, though? No. The reason we must forgive goes even deeper.

We must forgive because the Bible commands us to.

There are two basic commandments that Jesus gives: Love the Lord with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. As part of the Lord’s Prayer, He gives us a commandment that’s part of the latter. He says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that He specifically highlights afterward. It’s that important.

Why does He grant leniency for loving Him and loving others (what else can we call the forgiveness of our sins?), but doesn’t grant leniency for forgiving them?

The answer is because “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. The key phrase in this discussion is “through faith.” You have to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to wash out your sins. If you do not believe this, then it will not work for you.

Here’s the issue, though: Jesus didn’t die for just you. He died to offer Himself as a sacrifice for everyone. Anyone who believes in what He did can take advantage of His sacrifice. It is the ultimate one-size-fits-all gift. This means that the same gift was given to you as was given to everyone else, and accepting this gift is based on faith. If you do not believe it is enough for someone else’s sins, then it is not enough for your sins, either.

Read that last paragraph again…slowly. When you refuse to forgive someone, you’re not just saying that the offending person needs your forgiveness to really be forgiven; you’re saying that God Himself is not strong enough to cleanse that person, which means that God Himself is not strong enough to cleanse you. You are dooming yourself by your own unbelief, by your own unforgiveness. His blood is either strong enough for everyone, or it’s strong enough for no one. You must decide which of those two options you believe because there is no third option.