“I will never talk to that man again.”
“I wouldn’t give that woman the time of day.”
“I despise that person.”
Grudges are pernicious things, and we all know at least one person who’s got one they just can’t let go of. If we’re honest with ourselves, we might even have to admit that that person is us.
An inability or unwillingness to forgive offenses is unfortunately quite common. Over half of the respondents to one Gallup poll admitted that they don’t usually try to forgive others. This lack of forgiveness can lead to grudges and even lifelong feuds.
Perhaps most tragically of all, grudges usually divide people who were formerly very close. They ruin holiday celebrations, sever family relationships, and end good friendships.
More often than not, all of this destruction happens for a silly reason—a perceived offense, a misinterpreted comment, an imagined slight. It’s disheartening to see how many personal relationships are in turmoil because of a failure to properly communicate or because of a stubborn refusal to view things in a more understanding light.
Of course not all grudges are held for petty reasons. Some can result from real and serious offenses, even from unjust or criminal acts. While it’s certainly rarer, some people do have more legitimate reasons for holding onto their animosity.
However, whether the cause is serious or only perceived as such, it’s always better to forgive and let go of the resentment.
This doesn’t mean that we have to be best buddies with the person who’s offended us. We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to hang out with them on the weekends. In some cases, especially in certain domestic situations, we shouldn’t even speak with them.
But we should always be ready to forgive and to let go of the anger from our own hearts. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. That’s a pretty serious petition, and one that should make us think long and hard about refusing forgiveness to someone else.
While it may sound morbid to some, I think one of the best ways to overcome our personal disputes with whomever we’ve been unable to forgive is to reflect upon the brevity of this life. As the British writer G.K. Chesterton so intelligently put it, “The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.”
Some day—and perhaps sooner than we think—that person we refuse to speak with is going to be gone, and then it will be too late to make things right.