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Resolving Conflict: 5 Ways to Let Go of a Grudge

Holding a grudge can destroy a person.

But letting go of a grudge can seem impossible.

In 2 Samuel 1, David learns that Saul has died in battle. This was the man who drove David away from his best friend, who tried to kill him on several occasions, whose mad pursuit forced David to live in the wilderness for years. However, upon learning of Saul’s death, David pens a tribute song extolling the greatness of the former king.

In 2 Samuel 3, a war is raging between the house of David and the house of Saul. Abner, the general for Saul’s son realizes that the war is going to be won by David and so he decides to throw his loyalty behind David. However, rather than follow the example set by David (regarding Saul), David’s general, Joab, is unwilling to release his grudge against Abner (in the course of battle, Abner had killed Joab’s brother). He lures him into a meeting where he kills him. Within this story, we see Joab do some things that might remind us of ourselves:
  • He thinks the worst, and therefore reaches a wrong conclusion about Abner (vs.25)
  • In an effort to justify himself, he slanders and misrepresents Abner to David (vs.25)
  • He plots and carries out violence against Abner (vs.27)
  • In the process of destroying Abner, he rallies the support of others thereby including them in his sin (vs.30)
To understand the full impact of this story, we must remind ourselves that Saul had wronged David far more profoundly than Abner had wronged Joab. Yet David was able to release his hatred of Saul so effectively that he was capable of honoring his former enemy.

What principles can we glean from David’s handling of a grudge?:
  • Always hope for the best. David continued to hope and believe the best about Saul right til the end. The best way to feed a grudge is to remind yourself how you’ve been wronged. The best way to starve a grudge is to tell yourself the good things another person has done. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” If we want to release a grudge we must be willing to believe the best and to hope for the best.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. One of the most common reasons feuds between people grow out of control is that people reach wrong conclusions about one another. It is very easy to conclude that once someone has wronged you, they are going to continue to do so. Therefore, people often find themselves assuming wrong motivations in others regardless of what the truth may be. If we granted others the same amount of grace we give ourselves, we would rarely arrive at wrong conclusions about them.
  • Don’t build your case to others. The harder you work to convince your friends that someone is evil, the more likely it is that you will have to slander and assault their character in ways that go beyond what is right and appropriate. Through everything Saul did, David continued to refer to him as the “Lord’s anointed.” He refused to build a case against Saul, even to his closest friends. Once you have built a case against someone, you will have a very difficult time dropping that grudge.
  • Be slow to act. Very little good comes out of acting hastily, especially when you are responding to hurt or insult. Breathe. Pray. Count. Do whatever you need to do in order to slow down the flesh and empower the Spirit. James said we should be SLOW TO ANGER. Once you act quickly on a grudge, you have irrevocably changed a relationship that may not have needed the change. Take your time.
  • If you must, suffer silently. David retreated into the wilderness rather than fighting Saul. Jesus offered up no defense in his trial. When you choose to suffer silently, you are in good company. And if you are willing to embrace Christ in the depth of your hurt, He will provide you with all you need so that you can release the anger and hatred that drags you down.
A grudge is hatred percolating.

You can destroy it, or it will destroy you.

All the Posts in This Series:
3 Steps to Being a Peacemaker
5 Questions to Help Evaluate Yourself
6 Roadblocks That Shut Down Communication
Squashing Rumors
Squashing Rumors 2


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