(Originally Posted June 16th, 2011)
I can hold a grudge like a champion. If harbouring malice were an Olympic event, I’d win the gold medal, easily. If I feel you’ve wronged me, I can live my entire life without ever acknowledging your existence. I can cut you off in a second, and not even lose any sleep over it.
It isn’t something that makes me proud. There’s no place of honour for being malicious and bitter. You don’t win any prizes for finding faults in people. There’s no medal awarded for having animosity towards someone. All I’ve ever gained from resentment is anxiety, wasted time, and heartache. So I choose forgiveness.
It wasn’t easy for me, being a champion grudge-holder, and all, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
A few years ago I made a request to God, “Help me to forgive as you do.” What I didn’t know at the time was that when you ask God for anything, rather than giving you exactly what you want, He places you in situations which test your capacity to do what you’ve requested.
Shortly after I made that prayer, I happened to overhear an acquaintance talking about me behind my back. My first instinct was to walk right up to her and tell her exactly what I thought. Fortunately, I chose better–at the time I was too angry to speak rationally. So for the sake of peace, I let it go.
A few days later, I heard her talking about me again. This time, not only did she mention me by name, but she went through a laundry list of everything she felt was wrong with me. She said I was two-faced (I’m not), and I wore too much make-up, my perfume stinks, I’m not that smart, I think I’m better than everyone else and I’m “unpleasant to be around.”
In her eyes, I was a rotten human being, and the world would be a much better place without me in it.
Or something like that.
My anger turned to rage. When she was around me, she was so full of compliments it was a little cloying, but behind my back she was totally opposite. What a phony. The entire situation disgusted me. She disgusted me. After much thought (and prayer) I decided I would confront her.
I can be brusque on a good day, but when I’m angry I’m vicious. I didn’t know how she would take me, so I tried my best to be jovial and said, “So I heard you have a few things to say to me?” She was full of questions; what did I mean? What things? Who were you talking to? Then she said, “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I don’t have anything to tell you.”
Since that approach didn’t work, I tried something different, “If you have any problems with me or what I’m doing, you can tell me to my face.”
What she said next shocked me;
“I would never say anything about you behind your back.”
Then she proceeded to tell me what a wonderful person I was and how glad she is to have someone like me in her life. All I could think was, Liar. Liar. Pants on Fire.
A few days after she insisted she had no issues with me, I heard her tell someone that I was lazy and disorganized.
(She obviously had issues, but none of them had to do with me.)
Still, I spent a lot of time being angry with her. In my mind, I was justified because she talked about me and then lied about it to my face. Of course, she deserved my blatant disregard! She needed to be punished and treating her like she was the dirt beneath my shoes was my way of punishing her.
However, every time I picked up my bible to read, I always seemed to find scriptures about love and forgiveness. The one that spoke to me the most was Matthew 5:44-45;
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
In God’s eyes, we’re equals, and by showing forgiveness–especially when the person did nothing to earn it–I would be clearly defining my role as a follower of Christ.
I had been going about this the wrong way. I thought that by cutting off contact with her, I was preventing her from continuing to lie to me. In reality, I was nurturing my grudge against her. Even when she said something kind to me, I rejected it because I just couldn’t trust her anymore.
Then I thought about God and how much mercy he has shown me. There are many times when I’ve lied to him, made promises I didn’t keep, betrayed trust, and defamed His name by how I treated others. In spite of this, Gid forgave me and showed me mercy instead of wrath. Every single time.
In Colossians 3:13 Paul writes,
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
When God forgives, it’s unconditional. It means that the slate has been wiped clean. There’s a new record. God doesn’t hold your past against you.
In order to let this go once and for all, I had to forgive her genuinely–whether she was still talking about me or not.
I had to accept the fact that I am not the gossip police, and I will never be able to stop people from talking about me. It was her decision to make picking me apart her full time hobby, and it is one with which she will have to live. Even if what she said was 100% true, it didn’t change anything. I’m still me. I’m still living my life, and I’m still enjoying it.
I had to choose between my relationship with God, and holding on to the resentment. When I examined the situation closely, I realized that holding onto my resentment of her was like giving her squatters rights in my mind.
I had to evict her.
God has already done more for me than I will ever deserve, and His approval is infinitely more important than hers. Besides, how could I feel anything other than pity for a person who: a) didn’t even have the good sense to whisper while talking about people in public, and b) was too much of a coward to own up to it when confronted.
I can honestly say I forgive her for what she did. I pray she has a wonderful life, and that people who are positive, loving, and supportive will surround her, and give her the encouragement she needs. Most of all, I pray that if she’s still holding a grudge against me, that she’ll let it go. For her sake.
Harbouring resentment clouds your judgment, it blocks blessings, delays promotions, impedes personal growth, distorts your sense of reality, and makes you bitter and insecure. It also creates an atmosphere that attracts unfavourable outcomes in ALL areas of your life. In other words, instead of destroying the target of your wrath, clinging to feelings of resentment will destroy you.
You will never be able to realize your full potential until you make a conscious choice to eliminate bitterness from your life.
There are few things more humiliating than finding out the person you’ve directed so much negative energy combating isn’t even paying attention to you. While you’re wasting time plotting and scheming, trying to find ways to discredit them and ruin their reputation, they’re leading happy and fulfilling lives. They aren’t thinking about you at all. You’ve spent all this time hating them, and you’re not even an afterthought. It stands to reason that trying to reduce someone else by your words and your actions only serves to emphasise your deficiencies. That is the opposite of what you want.
By choosing forgiveness, I choose a life filled with love, peace and contentment. I can sleep with a clear conscience because The chains of bitterness do not bind me. I’m confident because I’m becoming the person God created me to be. Because I’m confident, I don’t need to talk about anyone else to feel good about myself. The fact that I have a loving family, and a loving God is an excellent reason to be joyful.
As for my loose-lipped acquaintance? She probably still thinks I’m two-faced, and conceited, and stinky. And she might even be telling people about me at this very moment, but that’s okay. She’s allowed to think and say whatever she wants. I hope she’s prepared for the consequences.
1 Peter 3:10-12
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
I’m not waiting for peace to find me; I am actively pursuing it. (With a club) I may have to bite my tongue at times, or perhaps take a vow of silence for the day, but I will not allow my words to be my undoing.
I’ll end with a quote from C.S. Lewis because I can’t say it any better:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
I forgive because I know what it’s like to be forgiven.