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Grudges … Let Them Go!

Ever held a grudge?  If we are honest with ourselves we’ve all been guilty at one time or another of harboring a grudge against someone. Most of us then learn the hard but valuable life lesson that holding onto our anger serves no good purpose. It only makes us miserable.  Allowing the spirit of anger to rule our life is nothing more than a surefire way to destroy our happiness and peace of mind. Even worse than that it gives the evil one a foothold to enter into our lives and multiply that suffering and misery. This particular spirit of anger – grudge – is especially good at infecting our relationships with guilt, resentment, hatred, and even thoughts of retaliation, which then lead to the slippery slope of revenge. Grudges are something I am unfortunately pretty familiar with because both my Dad and my brother somehow mastered the art of holding grudges. I don’t say this in a judgmental way it’s simply a matter of fact.

When I was a child, my Dad would hold grudges against anyone for the simplest things, especially neighbors. For years I watched his anger and resentment towards others fester until it was not only causing him great emotional anguish, but manifested into a bonafide physical illness. I truly believe his deep seated anger, resentments and even hatred towards so many played a large part in the series of strokes which would eventually cause his death. As I watched this play out in his life I often wondered why he could never let the simplest things go. I vowed to myself early on to not follow in his path because I’d witnessed the dire consequences. I’m happy to say that’s one vow I’ve kept. I may get hurt and angry but I don’t hold grudges. I forgive easily. Unfortunately, my only sibling, an older brother, went the opposite direction. He is just like my Dad and holds grudges against many, including me for things that seem utterly irrational. He followed in Dad’s footsteps complete with the nasty scowl on his face that says he hates not only the person that’s the object of his rage, but life in general. Dad never sought revenge. My brother does. And just like my dad, his grudge-holding ways are rapidly manifesting in his life as deteriorating health. I’m not trying to bore you with stories of my family dynamics but I think this illustrates how grudges can fester within our hearts and souls and eventually destroy us, and our families.

If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27

St. Paul tells us in the above verse from Ephesians ‘don’t sin by nursing your grudge’. He goes on to instruct us not to go to bed angry. So if I may, I’ll rephrase here in my own words; let it go, and just get over it! I tell you that from a place of love and my own experience. Sometimes we forgive not because we are wrong or because what the person did to harm us was right, but because holding onto our anger robs us of our happiness and peace of mind. Besides, if we don’t, let’s not forget that our anger is giving the devil a strong foothold into our lives – a strong foothold that this evil master manipulator will rejoice in using to slowly destroy us. But you might say, sometimes people do things that are heinous and unspeakably evil. My anger is righteous and my grudge justified. As a trauma survivor I understand the thinking behind this, but it’s still wrong to harbor a grudge. We are not the judge – God is. St. Paul again instructs us in Romans 12:19

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

It’s sad but true that sometimes people do such horrible and hate-filled things to us that forgiveness feels all but impossible. Dad abused me horribly. I was viciously raped, and everyday throughout junior and senior high was hell as the kids humiliated me and called me names. I know how it feels to want to lash out and make the perpetrator of our pain hurt as much as they’ve hurt us. But this is clearly not what our Lord Jesus would do or calls us to do. For as Christians we are called to follow Him, walk in His ways, and have a heart like His – a heart of love and forgiveness. Jesus tells us we must forgive to be forgiven.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

So how do we let go of grudges? Well, like all forgiveness, it’s but the grace of God. But before we can allow His grace to work in us and help us forgive we first need to make a conscious choice to do so. We need to admit to ourselves and the Lord, if no one else, that we’ve had enough of this deep-seated anger that is in the end hurting us most of all. We need to pray and ask the Lord to help us forgive – to give us the grace needed to do so. In the meantime, we can begin by taking steps that might help us begin the process and start working through the anger.

Since I am a writer, I often write out my feelings. It’s a much better way of expressing anger than a lot of other ways that come to mind. First of all, it gets the ill feelings out of your system instead holding onto them. You might try writing several letters. Begin with one to whomever you are holding the grudge against and purge yourself of your resentment and anger. Let it all out. You aren’t sending them the letter In fact, I recommend that you burn or shred the letter, and as you do, imagine yourself letting go of this emotional baggage and handing it over to God. Perhaps as the letter is turning to ashes you might also imagine the thoughts and feelings therein encircled in divine light and being transformed into love. Now write a second letter to your guardian angel asking for guidance and help in this process of letting your anger go. Then write another letter to the Lord. Tell Him your feelings. Yes, He already knows everything in your heart, but the process of actually writing it out is often an important step for us in letting go.

If writing isn’t your thing, then perhaps you have a trusted friend, family member, or clergy member you can confide in and pray with. Like all things in life, it is most helpful to take whatever it is to God in prayer. Surrender it. Leave it at His feet. If you are Catholic, you might go to Adoration and rest in the silence before the Blessed Sacrament. For me sitting before His Presence in front of the Blessed Sacrament is the closest place to the throne of Heaven I can get in this life. I close my eyes and imagine I am sitting with Jesus, my dearest Friend and Companion. I lay it all out to Him. All the pain and hurt I express and surrender, and then I ask for His grace to help me let go and leave it with Him. I pray for healing of myself and the one(s) that hurt me. I pray to be released from the hurtful memories. But however you pray, and wherever you feel closest to the Lord – go to this place in prayer and seek God’s assistance. The anger – the grudge that you’ve been holding onto needs to be purged and expressed to begin the first step in the process of letting it go.

Letting go of grudges can be something that you do quietly in your life. It doesn’t require you confront whomever the grudge is against. Many times that isn’t possible anyway because that person has passed on, or the grudge has been held onto for so long the other person may not even recall what you are talking about. Then, there are those situations where confronting the person would just make things worse. Decide what’s best for you and your particular circumstances and begin letting go of the grudges and resentments you hold that no longer serve you. Grudges poison your spirit so find a way to free yourself of them.

Lastly, don’t forget to forgive yourself! Consider all the anger, resentment and grudges you’ve held onto in your life a learning experience. You know better now! You’ve come to a higher spiritual awareness that harboring such negative emotions not only harms those around you, but you personally. In turn, allowing these dark emotions to fester gives the evil one leeway to wreak a whole lot of unwanted and unneeded pain and havoc you don’t want in your life. Learning to let go of anger and grudges is freedom. It gives us a newfound peace of mind and a peace deep in our soul, and that peace within … well … that allows that beautiful Christ light within your being to shine a whole lot brighter so that all you meet may see, know and feel His loving presence in you! In Christ’s Love,

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