I Like My Grudges With Cream and Sugar
By Janel Breitenstein
People who hold grudges can sometimes seem cool—like, not takin’ nothin’ from nobody! These days, identifying our areas of personal offense feels as defining as choosing a drink at Starbucks: “I’d like a venti cup of pro-life, pro-environment, anti-spanking, #metoo, extra hot.”
It’s classy to forgive, of course. But letting go of a grudge is hard when you’re still hacked off.
And forgiveness can get tricky for someone who struggles with being a pushover. Or if the offender never changes and keeps hurting you or others. Then there’s pressure from the trending attitude, “You don’t have to take that!” As though one who extends forgiveness takes on some kind of wimpy, limp-dishrag persona.
I thought of this when someone expressed how hard it was to forgive her husband. Forgiveness was a choice she had to keep making over and over. Like the rest of us, he tended to screw up in the same old areas.
It didn’t seem like an issue of boundaries. She wasn’t failing to confront her husband or creating an environment without consequences. It just took a lot of intentionality to let go of her anger and for them to mutually rebuild trust.
Here’s what forgiveness isn’t: It’s not forgetting or excusing, releasing someone from worldly consequences of sin. (An embezzler, for example, should not be given a position as an accountant.)
Yet if we defer on forgiveness—are we really loving our spouse well? Are we really, like we ask in the Lord’s Prayer, forgiving them as we long to be forgiven? (Matthew 6:9-13)
No matter how egregious the offense, how justified the grudge—in light of how much we’ve been forgiven, can we ever, in good conscience, not forgive?
So you can keep my extra-hot, totally steamed grudge. I request my empty cup of God’s anger for both of us, poured out on Jesus.
The good stuff: “Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’” (Matthew 18:32-33)
Action points: Are there things you have trouble forgiving your spouse for? If so, pray for empathy to understand why they act the way they do. Ask for God’s supernatural power to forgive your spouse.
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