Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Grievance Collecting

Sometimes an important subject becomes like chewing gum on the sole of your shoe. It will not go away until you have given it proper time and effort. Two recent posts on ‘Forgiveness' have stirred several connected thoughts on the subject which beg to be expressed.

One of these connected subjects is the dangerous and addictive habit of ‘grievance collecting'. In the absence of the better angels of our nature, we can adopt grievance collecting as a means of soothing real or imagined wounds to our ego.

It is a game we can play all by ourselves. Like self-pity, it has a narcotic-like effect on our emotional wounds. Because it feels so good, and there is such an abundant supply, grievance collecting can easily become a habitual practice to which we can flee for comfort at a moment's notice without asking permission of anybody. It is hardly noticed by others. It is our little secret source of comfort.

Several years ago I came upon a parody on grievance collecting by W.W. Morris published in the devotional magazine "Alive Now". It was under the general heading of ‘Hobby'. I saw many people I know in the piece, unfortunately, including myself. If you read carefully, you may find people you know in the piece, including yourself.

"If you want to get along in this world, don't forget the smallest offense or slight. Keep score of all wrongs done to you. Be sure to remember each petty statement made about you in the past. Cultivate your garden of grievance each day. Take a few minutes before you get out of bed each morning to recite to yourself the names of the people who have offended you, and the nature of their offenses. When you are driving alone in your automobile, use that block of time to recall the names of your enemies and to make preliminary plans for getting even with each of them. Paste the record of your ruffled feelings in your private book of remembrance. Save up grudges and collect grievances like a stamp or coin collector. Display them to others with pride! You will soon learn how easily grievance collecting can become a lifetime hobby that will blend into your total lifestyle. Soon you will find that spare time is not enough time for grievance collecting, and you will look forward to retirement so you can give your complete time to such a demanding hobby. The most lasting value of cultivating the art of grievance collecting is that, if you are persistent and undeterred, you will get a more accurate preview of hell than could be acquired in any other way. And hell is that happy hunting ground to which all master-grievance collectors go, where they can display their collections forever to those who will appreciate them most."

Forgiving people who have hurt you is not easy. Oh, how we hate to give up our fantasies of getting even!! They are such a comfort!

Not long ago I met an old enemy I had forgiven, and I actually missed the emotional rush I once had when he was an enemy. I tried to recover the feeling, but it was gone. I could not muster up an ounce of ill-will, no matter how hard I tried. I celebrated the victory of forgiveness, but there was a part of me that grieved the loss of an enemy. Oh, how we love to hate our enemies - both real and imagined.

Complete forgiveness is a super-human act, but it is worth the effort. You would be surprised at how much it lightens the load.