On Lent and Letting Go of Grudges

On Lent and Letting Go of Grudges March 14, 2016

Peace Pray. Photo by: Hamed Parham.
Peace Pray. Photo by: Hamed Parham.

I’ve held a grudge for a long time, I’m not proud to say.

I’m not exactly the grudging holding kind of person. You know who I mean, the kind of person who goes around dragging a thousand pound weight tied around their neck. The kind of person that you meet and you can tell they’re nursing a grudge. I’m not one of those people, but maybe I am. Maybe we are all, in our own private ways. And maybe Lent—a traditional time of repentance and penance—is the perfect time to let it go.

Not maybe but definitely. Lent is definitely the time to practice the difficult art of letting go.

This Lent I’m letting go of a grudge.

I knew a guy in high school who was a real troublemaker. Not the good kind of trouble. Not the kind of trouble where you’d climb up on the roof of the church with your sleeping bags and spend the night—or, at least, stay there until the night security guard found you and chased you down. Not the kind of trouble where you’d stay out too late goofing around at McDonald’s or jumping off the swings at the park. Not even the kind of trouble that involved the under-aged imbibing of a few too many adult beverages.

This guy I knew was the kind of troublemaker who could cleave a wedge right down the middle of an otherwise healthy, happy, and vibrant church youth group. This guy was the kind of person who caused good, holy, and well-intentioned Christians to question the core of their faith, and their very salvation.

This was the kind of guy I could hold a grudge against.

And I did.

See, this guy really got my goat back in high school. In our tight-knit group of evangelical teenagers he was the staunch Calvinist and from the few resources he scoured over on the Internet he’d become convinced that some Christians might not be called to Christ.

He was convinced that some of us were phonies. Not phonies as in some kind of pious imposters—it wasn’t that we weren’t reading our Bibles enough or not praying with enough frequency—we were phonies in the sense that we were never meant to be saved to begin with. We weren’t Calvin’s pre-destined elect, and we may as well give up.

He was charismatic, socially attractive, and gathered a small following quickly.

It was devastating, and it devastated some of my good friends who questioned their faith, who questioned their salvation, and who fell away.

And so I held a grudge.

I don’t think I’ve dragged it around all these intervening years. I certainly haven’t let it fester, or focused on it, or harboured it with any real intention. It was like one of those things in the bottom of a drawer that you know is there and that you might, someday, need to retrieve and use but, more likely than not, you’ll forget about it and never give it a second thought. Or, maybe, when it comes time to move home and you’re packing up it falls out, onto the floor, and there it is.

The Lord has, recently, been doing some Spring cleaning.

And there it is.

There is that grudge. That anger I felt when friends of mine first started to question their Christian walk; the hurt when I heard why. And there it is again, that weird insecure teenager emotion, after all these years.

I recently saw something this person had written, indirectly to a friend of a friend. It was the first time I’d seen or heard anything from this person in probably a decade and there was that immediate pang of anger, and hurt. There it was, immediately, that grudge. A decade old, or more. And I realized, this person probably doesn’t even remember me. This person probably doesn’t even remember what they did. This person probably has no idea the impact of their actions.

Who is this grudge for?

Anne Lamott has a great quote that is, to her credit, often mistakenly attributed to the Buddha. She says,

Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.

That’s my grudge. That’s it.

Lent, being a traditional time of penance, forgiveness, and repentance, is the perfect time to practice letting go. In the Catholic tradition, Lent is a time of an increased offering of the sacrament of Confession—in which the priest reminds us that Jesus forgives. And a time of sacrifice, the giving up of something. And the prayerful expectancy of the coming of Christ at Easter. It’s a rich, reflective time.

It’s a time of letting go of the self, to receive more of Christ.

It’s the perfect time to let go of my grudge.

Because the rat isn’t going to die if I drink the poison. The past won’t change, hearts won’t be healed, youthful mistakes won’t be corrected by my being bitter, and holding my grudge. The heart that can find healing is my own. This Lent, I will forgive, and practice the art of forgiveness. I will prayerfully become that much more like Christ, and practice the art of Christ-likeness. I will let go, and I will receive.

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