So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41 NASB).
The story of Jacob and Esau is classic and informative. Jacob stole both Esau’s birthright and blessing. The latter he did through outright, planned deception, aided by his mother. When Esau discovered this, he was furious. Many would say, rightly so.
The Dynamics of Anger
Notice that the immediate response of anger is always revenge. If you are hurt, or perceive that you have been hurt by someone, you always want them to hurt. You feel you deserve this vindication, and they deserve the punishment.
The desire of Esau? He wanted to kill Jacob.
We may think, “Well, at least I’ve never wanted to murder someone. I’m fine in my anger. I can handle this.”
But Jesus helped us see the reality in the Sermon on the Mount. He said that anger is just like murder. When you get angry with someone and want revenge and don’t deal with it, you will always try to destroy them, whether you recognize it or not (Matthew 5:21-24).
Murder is merely one of the tools in getting revenge. We can “murder” someone by gossip and slander, withdrawal and disassociation, manipulating and rejoicing in their failure, etc. There are many faces to revenge.
The Endgame of Harbored Hurt
The tragedy is, this hurts us more than it does them. If we harbor hurt, it will turn to unforgiveness, and unforgiveness to bitterness. A bitter spirit will always spring up, always cause trouble, and always defile those around us—even those we most dearly love (Hebrews 12:15).
I’ve dealt with hundreds of bitter people in my life. It’s never pretty. Some are plagued with bitterness even though the one who hurt them is dead and long gone. They are still letting someone in their past hold the keys to their happiness and rest.
There’s only one answer to dealing with a grudge: Forgive. This is our responsibility, as a choice of our will, by faith, for the glory of God. It’s made possible by the grace of God and is our constant challenge and great opportunity.
Any follower of Christ has the power within them to forgive at any moment. We may not want to; we may not know how; but we can forgive anyone of anything.
We’re never more like Jesus than when we forgive. And never more like Satan than when we seek revenge.
Lord, is there any anger harbored in my heart? Any hurt lodged there toward anyone? Anyone whose failure I rejoice in, or whose hurt I delight in? Please show me any unforgiveness and give me the grace to forgive them, fully and completely—to release them from my courtroom to the courtroom of heaven. Thank You that there is a path—always—to avoid unforgiveness and in its place be filled with the love of God, and thus bring peace to my heart and an undeniable witness to a watching world.
If you are suffering from a harbored grudge or know someone who is, I wrote a little booklet that has been put in the hands of tens of thousands of people and has seemed to help many. “Healing the Harbored Hurts of Our Heart” can be found at www.BillElliff.org in the online store.