Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't Hold a Grudge -- Hold an Understanding

How often have you been surprised by a friend who takes advantage of you or treats you with disrespect? It happens all the time, and often you forgive and move forward trusting it was just an isolated incident. You let it go, and sure enough, it happens again. 

You expect that friends are going to deal with you justly -- that is, give you what you deserve. Is it unreasonable to have this expectation in relationships?

What should you do when someone treats you poorly, manipulates you or is disrespectful?

Relationship author Laraine Bennett offers this:
As John Paul II wrote in Love and Responsibility, “Anyone who treats a person as the means to an end does violence to the very essence of the other” (Wojtyla 27).  A true friend never uses someone for selfish reasons. Furthermore, a true friend will seek what is best for his friend. (click to read more)

 A true friend shouldn't treat you poorly or use your friendship in a selfish way. But when it happens, how should you manage the frustration that can cause resentment? As a Christian, do you simply forgive and forget? After all, Jesus says:
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. (Mt 5:23-25)

This particular passage of Scripture certainly speaks clearly to the need to forgive. Forgiveness is a human action made toward others, it is not always returned.  Grudges happen when a person fails to forgive and harbors bad feelings. It is not a healthy way to handle relationships; it is not a healthy way to live life. Holding a grudge is never the way to proceed.

Then, what is the proper recourse?  St Paul says this:
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim 1:7)
You must start by looking inside yourself.  Power, love and self-control are all necessary components to self-understanding which helps you to forgive.  You have the power to decide not to be treated poorly -- sometimes grudges take hold when you believe that is the only power you possess. You are also called to more than self-pity -- Poor me, I was treated badly. -- or  self-righteousness --Who do they think they are to treat me that way?  You are called to love and self-control; with these as your guide, you can walk the rational line between those extreme feelings. It is never wise to respond in the heat of the moment or when the hurt is at it peak. This is the time for prayer, reflection and searching inwardly for your own "plank" before you address the "splinter" in your neighbor. Remember, relationships need two people; there is often responsibility for the animosity on both sides.

Once you are able to forgive, do you allow yourself to fall into the same relationship patterns as before?

It is important not to forget, but rather to learn from what you've experienced. It would be fool hardy to simply "forgive and forget" opening yourself up to continued mistreatment.

When a conflict occurs, recognize that you have been given the gift of knowledge and information. You should assess the personalities involved -- your own and your neighbor's. Relationships are not stagnant -- they grow and change. They are also wellsprings of insight about the human condition. When you realize that someone has a tendency to treat people badly, you can avoid those situations or even prevent them by watching for the signs. You don't have to step all the way out of a friendship or relationship, you just have to be savvy enough to know who you are dealing with and adjust your expectations accordingly. Of course, if a relationship is harmful to body or soul, it is wise to exit.

If Christ calls all of us to "love our neighbor as ourselves", we had better get a realistic understanding of who we are and who our neighbor is. Holding grudges and being judgmental of others is not healthy, it can lead to isolation and loneliness. So, let go of the grudge and take hold of your ability to reason with compassion and understanding. It's time to go make and maintain healthy relationships established in the Lord.



Allison said...

Great post, Kathy. Sometimes those planks really affect my vision. I hope I can realize that each day is an opportunity to improve.

Cherie said...


I can relate all to well to your post. Thank you for the biblical references, although they do sound a bit harsh on the one being "hurt". I do see the point, we have to be a good Christian in these situations.

My biggest struggle is to let go of that grudge and forgive. I have a question, do you think in some relationships the one who we are trying to forgive often has no idea what they have done? What should we do in that situation?

Keep on writing;) Cherie

Kathy said...


It's always harder to be the "bigger person" in a situation where you've been hurt -- to check your own behavior and not lash out. And, yes, I do believe sometimes others are oblivious to what they have done. Perhaps the right thing to do, if the moment presents itself, is to say, "You know, that really hurt me." But, I wouldn't necessarily seek the person out to rehash old events. Until such a time presents itself, just realize that about the other person and don't put yourself in the position to be hurt again. You can still forgive, love and remember assert the power to protect yourself.

God bless.