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What does the Bible say about grudges?

To hold a grudge is to allow ourselves to dwell on anger, bitterness, resentment, or other negative feelings for a prolonged time after someone has hurt us or after we've perceived wrongdoing. When we’ve been hurt very deeply, it's a common response to want to withhold forgiveness from that person. We want to hurt the one who hurt us. Grudges might be held against bullies, friends, family members, or strangers.

When things don’t go the way we want them to, we may even feel compelled to blame God and hold a grudge against Him. "Why am I not [fill in the blank]?" "Why does that person have it so much better than me?" "Why did God allow this to happen to me?" After all, God is completely sovereign, which means that He allowed our lives to be the way they are, right? He gives and takes away according to His will (Job 1:21).

What does the Bible say about grudges?

The Bible tells us that God does not want us to hold grudges against anyone for any reason. Leviticus 19:18 says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” When God says "I am the Lord" in this verse, He's reminding us that HE is God—not us. HE will dole out justice in His time—we should not (1 Samuel 24:12). If vengeance is necessary, HE will handle it—not us (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).

When we take vengeance and punishment into our own hands, we're saying that WE are the judges. As fallen, sinful humans, we don’t have the right to do the things reserved for God. When we hold grudges, we're claiming the right to give and take away, but that is not the job God has given us. God knows holding grudges will only lead to pain for the person holding the grudge. Unforgiveness can lead to anguished bitterness, obsession, and heartache.

James 1:20 says, "The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." Instead of trying to control the situation, we must give the reins of justice over to God. God is the perfect judge, and He is the only one qualified to judge (Romans 12:19).

Biblical Forgiveness

Many misunderstand what forgiveness really means. Forgiveness is NOT simply saying that the hurtful thing was OK. Forgiveness does NOT mean that you just forget what was done to you. Forgiveness does NOT require you to stay in contact with the one who hurt you. Forgiveness is an agreement with GOD—not the person who hurt you.

Biblical forgiveness means giving all the hurt, pain, and grief to God. Biblical forgiveness reflects the forgiveness God has given us (Ephesians 4:32). Biblical forgiveness is a conscious choice to let go of our anger and trust God to heal our hearts. Jesus said that our forgiveness for others should have no limit (Matthew 18:21-22). True forgiveness makes room for our own healing and peace and allows us to learn from the situation, becoming wiser for the future.

Does forgiveness require reconciliation?

No, reconciliation and forgiveness do not necessarily go together. Reconciliation is a separate action from forgiveness. While forgiveness is an agreement made between us and God, reconciliation is an agreement made between us and the person who has wronged us. Reconciliation is a decision to return to peaceful, friendly relations with that person. Reconciliation does NOT happen automatically when we choose to forgive. And reconciliation is NOT a requirement in order to choose biblical forgiveness for someone.

Reconciliation requires trust and for both sides and a mutual willingness to restore the relationship. If one person is unwilling to work on whatever it takes to restore the relationship, then reconciliation is just not going to happen at that time. In the case of an abusive parent, for example, we can forgive them, but that doesn’t mean we will be reconciled to them. A person’s actions will reveal their trustworthiness and if reconciliation is even possible (Proverbs 26:24-25).

God wants us to choose forgiveness over holding a grudge. When we choose to give God our pain, we'll find it easier to welcome in peace, comfort, and wisdom. While people may fail us, God is trustworthy and truly knows what's best (Proverbs 3:5-7).

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TL;DR

To hold a grudge is to allow ourselves to dwell on anger, bitterness, resentment, or other negative feelings for a prolonged time after someone has hurt us. God does not want us to hold grudges against anyone for any reason (Leviticus 19:18). God will dole out justice in His time, and if vengeance is necessary, HE will handle it—not us (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). God knows holding grudges leads to anguished bitterness, obsession, and heartache for us. Forgiveness and reconciliation do not necessarily go together. Forgiveness is an agreement between us and God alone to release our pain to Him (Ephesians 4:32). Reconciliation is an agreement between us and the person who hurt us to return to peace. When we choose to give God our pain, we'll more easily find peace, comfort, and wisdom.

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

Writer/Editor: Catiana N.K.

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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