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Pamela Czarnota Pamela Czarnota

Pamelas Czarnota is a member of the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod Congregational Resource Team, and a conference speaker, retreat leader, spiritual director and writer.

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The Binding Force of Grudges

September 07, 2011

 

Matthew 18: 21-22
Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

This weekend the entire church will be reflecting upon the events which began on 9/11/2001.  Life will never be the same. 

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that on this same weekend the church is enfolded in all that Jesus said about forgiveness.  The Good News about forgiveness is not necessarily "easy" news to hear.  How does the process of forgiveness unfold?  What gets in the way of the process?  When does an inability to forgive sprout from our choice to hold a grudge?  The more we hang on to a grudge the more it holds on to us and everything we do, think or say.

Life together is dramatically influenced (and in truth, it is enriched) by our capacity to see things from different angles. This is a good thing, because one person can't possibly see all that there is to be seen about a situation. After all, nobody that I know is all-seeing, or all-knowing. Much of the time we benefit from the exchange of ideas, even contrasting views.  Together we come closer to a glimpse of the truth, right?

Well, sure, as long as we are able to share time and space where we can actually hear and absorb what the other has to say.  When we stay with one another we are expressing our desire and for what the other might reveal to us. 

However, the road of human relationship is not always straight and smooth. Offenses or misunderstandings cause ripples and rifts that disrupt the flow of respectful conversation. They can bring people to a halt, standing toe to toe (or back to back) as an issue gains power and magnitude. Eventually joy, peace and harmony may be eclipsed. The issue becomes dominant and takes on a life of its own. 

Discord can enter boldly, through specific words and deeds; or it can slither into a relationship via a perception (or a misperception). It escalates when the people involved are fixated upon the source of contention...and over time it will grow exponentially, fanned by the winds of a choice (literally) to hold on to the grudge. Sadly, it is not unusual for people to remember and even perpetuate the wall of separation or opposition long after the actual details of the initial problem have receded into time and space.

This happens in families, in communities, in nations; and, sadly, it happens in the church. We need to be on the alert for the genesis of separation or misunderstanding. What is initially nothing other than a "difference of opinion" may flourish in the womb of awkwardness and develop a life all its own. What starts out as a simple agreement to go separate ways may result in a rift of huge proportion.

Enter, forgiveness!  We need you desperately, for the good of all! 

Forgiveness is necessary in dynamic relationships.  As we learn more about the "other" it is not unusual for there to be occasions of misunderstanding or even offense.  Forgiveness is a process, beginning with the willingness to forgive or be forgiven.  Still, the tendency to hold on to the experience of pain can stall or even abort the healing process.  I don't think there is anything more harmful to the vitality and quality of a relationship than a grudge.  The only way to guard against the bitterness of a grudge, is to become habitually forgiving, no matter how many times the offense or its memory rears its head.  That's the only way you can "see" the new possibilities revealed as forgiveness moves us toward new life. 

Each week the community of faith is gathered again into one. Each week we are encouraged to be with one another in the spirit of Christ's Love. We are to trust the depth of oneness that is rooted in the heart, even when our minds are not completely "alike".

As soon as you notice that you are beginning to step away from somebody with whom you have a difference, lean into Christ...allow the miraculous gift of His love to guide you through conversations and activities in an attitude of forgiveness...not 7...but 77 times...777 times....77777 times.....

Got a grudge? Let Go of It! Letting go of it doesn't mean that you are forgetting the depth of pain and sorrow inflicted by a wrongdoing.  It does mean that although you remember the past, it no longer is the major determining factor regarding how you will face the future.

 

 


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