The Grudge - Week One: Over It
This week we are launching a brand new sermon series entitled, "The Grudge: Letting Go of Past Hurts In Order to Move Forward."
We have a tendency to carry around with us the painful parts of our past. We hold resentment and bitterness toward the people who’ve hurt us, mistakes that we’ve made, and even toward God for the things that others have done. These grudges weigh us down and keep us from being the people God longs for us to be. This series will help us learn how to move on from destructive thinking and toward true forgiveness and peace.
Being quarantined can make you think.
Not only do you find yourself thinking about things that you never in a million years thought you would think about... like,
"Do I really have enough toilet paper to last the entire zombie apocalypse?"
"Wait... does this virus actually turn people into zombies, and they're just not telling us?"
"If my family turns into zombies--I may have to do something about that."
All work and no play makes a Jack a dull boy... All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...
That was a The Shining reference for those of you who weren't aware.
I've been trapped in a house with the same people for a long time. It turns your humor dark and stuff.
Seriously, being in a situation like this where you have a lot more time on your hands can get you thinking about a lot of things--life, the universe, everything. And it can also get you thinking about a lot of the hurts and wounds that you were heretofore busy enough to ignore.
Have you ever been shocked by the fact that you were absolutely exhausted, but you didn't really feel it until you stopped moving, and then you felt like you couldn't get up again? This is kind of what is happening to a lot of us right now.
This series is focused on one of those things that may have come up during this crisis---something that you found yourself remembering, feeling acutely, and then wondering why you were angry, sad, depressed.
I'm talking about grudges, past hurts that you may not have completely dealt with, or chose to ignore and now the weight of those hurts is feeling heavier than ever. And maybe the person who hurt you has been on your mind lately.
I've been thinking a lot about this... Maybe it's because my emotions have been a bit raw, but I've been remembering a lot of the people who I used to be close with once upon a time, and then things went south.
I have also realized something about myself---I can seriously hold a grudge. And maybe I have good reasons for holding a grudge. Maybe these people stabbed me in the back, lied about me, said things to me that were hurtful and awful, gossiped about me to others... Or hurt someone I care about.
And what I've learned about myself is that I justify my feelings by the measure of hurt that I've felt, and I wallow in them. It actually feels good to be angry about it because I believe that it gives me back some control.
When it comes to getting offended, holding grudges, feeling hurt or wounded... we all have our tipping points. There is a moment for all of us when we stop letting things slide---when someone else's hurtful words or actions become too much for us.
The question that each of us has to answer is simply this: "How easily does it happen for us?" Is our tipping point right at the surface all of the time? Are we easily offended?
Because when it comes to holding grudges or constantly being offended the person it hurts the worse is us...
You see, holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Also I just need to say this: If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for.
I'm not trying to minimize anyone's hurt here. Some of us have experienced some of the worst treatment you can imagine from another person. There are some among us who have experienced psychological, physical, emotional and even sexual abuse, and that's hard to shake. It's hard to let that go.
But if we don't figure out how to release our pain---we will transmit it to others. And typically the people who end up receiving the transmission of our pain are the people we care most about, which ultimately ends up tearing us apart in the process.
We're going to dig deeper into this over the course of the next couple of weeks, because if we are not able to figure out how to find a way to forgive those who have hurt us, let them go, release them and find some peace again when it comes to our relationships with them... we won't be able to grow, and become the people God longs for us to be.
This is what I want us to hold on to this week---the one thing I don't want you to forget:
The person you wound the most with a grudge is in your mirror.
The passage of Scripture we are going to be exploring today as our guide was part of a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus. The Apostle Paul wanted these early church communities to embrace unity---there was so much in the world then to divide them, you see.
Isn't it amazing that we are so much better now then they were then?
But what Paul wanted them to understand is that unity doesn't necessarily mean uniformity. It requires forbearance to live in a diverse community, and so he wrote them these words:
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;There is a line in this passage that is just flat out amazing. It's when Paul urges the Ephesians to live a "life worthy of the calling you received."
Paul is saying to them, "Listen, you were meant for more than this... this disunity, these grudges, these age-old annoyances with people who are of a different race, a different gender, class, religion..." Some of these people had serious reason to feel the grudges they were fostering. They had been slaves. They were treated poorly because of their race, or the fact that they were not Roman...
But Paul appeals to the higher calling that they have received to be followers of Jesus, and to follow in his example to be humble, gentle, patient and loving.
Basically he's saying, "If you live like this, how long can you hold a grudge? If you are fulfilling your calling as followers of Jesus, doing everything you can to live like he would have you live, the way that he lived... then how can you hold a grudge?"
Paul appeals to the example of Jesus, both here and everywhere he speaks about this issue which was in every single one of his letters to every single one of the churches he founded.
Jesus... Jesus who forgave the very people who executed him, the disciples who fled from him, the followers that forsook him... "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
And then Paul offers some measured advice, when he says, "Make every effort to keep this unity..." Make every effort. Sometimes people won't cooperate with us when we are trying to get along. There are people who are just... well, jerks. No matter what you try to reach out to them, they are not going to offer their hand back.
Paul acknowledges this, but ultimately calls the Ephesians back to something incredibly important that they need to remember even when they are dealing with people who are impossible to love... or even get along with.
He says, "there is one body, one Spirit, one hope..." There is no hierarchy for grace. Grace is for everyone, even the jerks... even us.
What we take away from this is both simple and challenging:
Life is too short and your purpose is too amazing to live in a constant state of offense--holding grudges.
So how do we begin the process of letting go of our hurts?
We close the gap with LOVE
Proverbs 10:12: 2 Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
There is a gap that exists between an action and our reaction to that action. When someone hurts us, there is a moment when we get to decide how we will react. We get to choose what to put in the gap.
Just for a second, I'd like to talk about the Psychology of all of this, and something called "Fundamental Attribution Error."
This is a bias that exists within all of us to attribute our own behavior to our circumstances while attributing someone else's actions to their character.
When you cut someone off on the highway, and they react to you by blowing their horn and giving you the finger---you say to yourself that you made an honest mistake and they are just overreacting.
When someone does it to you, you assume they are trying to kill you. It's like that.
We do this with people all of the time--especially people who wound us, and hurt us. People who betray us and leave us hanging out to dry. Friends who stab us in the back. A loved one who does something reprehensible. The list goes on and on. In these cases, we assume that these people have poor character, inherent flaws that are unforgivable, perhaps.
And we write them off.
But when we fill the gap with love... Love gives the benefit of the doubt. Love assumes the best. Love sees the other through the eyes of God, and not through the clouded judgement of our own bias.
Listen, if someone has hurt you, abused you, done unspeakable things to you---I know that it's a stretch to try to try to fill the gaps that were created in that relationship with love. Maybe you can't do that with the person in question. They may be dead. Or gone. Or you know that to see them again would be dangerous to you.
But you can still let them go. You can fill the gap with love, and let them go. And maybe the love you choose to fill that gap with is love for yourself, forgiveness for yourself... or an taking action to ensure that no one else gets hurt by them... however it's done, you can still let them go.
Because you owe it to yourself to do so. You can't keep swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die. It's time to live differently.
The person you would most with a grudge is in your mirror. And that person is a child of God. Precious to God. Loved by God. And God wants more for you than the small, angry, fearful, bitter life that comes with holding a grudge.
You can do this. Here's your assignment.