What Are The Symptoms of Holding A Grudge?

I wrote not long ago about, Reasons We Struggle to Forgive. I wrote from my own perspective, as I do with anything I share. I can only share from my own life. I have seen in my own life the miraculous, yes miraculous, power of forgiveness. Forgiveness rebuilds ruined relationships..You know what, though? Choosing not to forgive is just as powerful as choosing to forgive. Oh, it is very powerful indeed. With this choice to hold onto our grudges, comes some consequences. There are symptoms of unforgiveness that everyone deals with when they choose not to let it go...

Bitterness. When we choose to hold onto a wrong done against us, the only thing we can feel towards that person is bitterness. Bitterness is defined as: lacking sweetness. Think about it. The relationships in our life that are good, they fill our souls. That's because we were created for relationship. In fact, relationship is the most important aspect of our life. Those without relationship loose hope. The relationships in our lives that are strong, they really do taste sweet. They fill us with joy, laughter, love...they taste sweet. When we hold onto our hurts, well, all the sweetness goes away.

 I think I have a unique perspective on this. When I walked the very hard road of forgiving, there were two different kinds of relationships represented in my life. There were relationships that needed restoration. I needed to forgive so the ruins would be rebuilt. However, there was one person in my life that I needed to forgive even though I knew the relationship would not be restored. I knew that person would not even receive my offer of forgiveness.

And I was right.

So, when I talk about the sweetness of relationships, I am not implying that every time we choose to forgive we will see a new relationship blossom. Sometimes, forgiveness is simply the closure. We can carry bitterness against someone long after they leave this earth. Bitterness does not end once that relationship ends. No, that is the power of bitterness. It is like maggots on rotten food. The longer the food sits, the more maggots it attracts. Harsh analogy, I know, but true. Bitterness is not gentle or kind. It does not ask permission to fester inside of us, just like maggots don't ask for permission to attack rotten food. The hurts we carry around, refusing to release, they are no different than the rotten food we throw out, and those old hurts call out to bitterness, begging it to come and feast...and it always will. Do you feel a stirring of anger when you think about that person who hurt you? The wound might have been inflicted years ago, but remember....bitterness likes to fester. The older the unhealed wound, the stronger the bitterness.

Another symptom of choosing to hold onto our hurts is that we can develop the mantra, "you owe me." Not everyone will have this symptom, but you will know if this applies to you. At first, we only feel this way about the people who hurt us. They caused some kind of offense and they owe us for that offense. What we don't realize though, is that this, "you owe me" attitude starts sloshing over into our perspective on life. Without realizing it, we begin to see the world through this sense of entitlement, thinking the world owes us for the pain we have suffered. You see, the enemy isn't interested in just ruining one of your relationships.

He wants all of them.

While we've been holding on to this one hurt, refusing to forgive, we've allowed the enemy to trick us. We begin viewing every relationship through this attitude that we are owed something. We can become selfish, even lazy. The enemy is not kind, friends. He isn't looking to just take from one area of your life. He wants to use those offenses to destroy your life. Do you think the world owes you something? Do you look to others to make you feel better, to take care of your problems? Instead of believing that the world or certain people owe you, start believing that you owe it to yourself to be free. Let it go, friend. Just let it go.

On the flip side of this symptom, is a symptom that is the complete opposite of this "you owe me" symptom. I struggled with this one more than any: I refused authenticity. Did you know that this can be a result of holding on to those hurts? Fear is directly linked to unforgiveness and when that fear grows inside of us, it becomes harder and harder to be authentic with the world around us. This was me. I thought, if I didn't let anyone else in, I wouldn't get hurt...so I kept everyone out. Well, almost everyone. My husband would not be shut out. (I love him!) If you find yourself struggling to be the real you, ask yourself what it is you're guarding. Are you guarding your heart from more hurt? Are you afraid of what might happen if you open that door? Do you replay the past hurts over and over in your mind? This is dangerous, friend. If you refuse authenticity, you will eventually loose hope because relationships are meant to touch your heart. We are not meant to walk the surface, we are meant to go deep. Dig deep and rely on God's courage to help you walk the road of authenticity. If I can do it, you can do it!

Finally, I can absolutely testify to you that when you carry around unforgiveness it affects your health. Holding up the heavy weight of unforgiveness is exhausting. Your mind will run through things, over and over and over, especially when you lay your head down at night. Your body will grow weak under the weight of it all. You will ache, you will hurt, you will find no rest. Your physical body will respond to the bondage of your heart and mind. Now, obviously I'm not saying every time you get sick, you need to forgive someone (that's just silly). It's worth noting though, that I have felt better physically the past year and a half than I ever did before. I have more energy, my step is lighter, I feel healthy. I think it's simple. Our body, mind and heart are all connected. When one is out of step, the others will follow. The longer we let one of those three walk in dysfunction, the worse things become. Let it go, friend. Let it go for your own sake.

Forgiveness is a big deal. It is the center of Christianity and yet, we all can say we struggle to offer it to the world. Believe me, I understand. I can't tell you how many times I yelled out to God that it was just too hard. In those moments, it looked like it would be easier to just leave those doors shut. It isn't easier, though. The bottom line is we cannot walk in healthy relationship with God and carry around unforgiveness. How much have you and I been forgiven? Every deed, every word...everything...he forgives everything. Too much is at stake for me to hold onto my grudge. Too many lives are at stake for me to wallow in self pity over my wounds. TOO MUCH! Whoever hurt you, no matter how devastating the blow....release them. Release them from the debt so that you can be free. Oh, and don't try to do it alone, friend. Forgiveness comes straight from the throne of grace and none of us can offer it in our human strength. You must cling to Jesus, you must carry the cross. That is how you walk in forgiveness. That is the only way. Forgive, friend. Forgive...

and be free.

Then Peter came and asked him, "Lord, how many times should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven." Matthew 18:21-22

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