Bible Verses on Holding Grudges: Why Choose Forgiveness?

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God’s Word tells us to forgive when we’re hurt and tempted to hold a grudge.

I’d venture to guess every person reading my words has been hurt by someone.

Wounds inflicted by others can be incredibly painful. 

Painful can be putting it mildly. Our hurts can be heartbreaking, devastating, and even traumatizing.  

Often the closer we are to the person who wronged us, the more painful the sting. 

Family members and close friends have access to our hearts – able to hurt us deeply.

Consider the following types of wrongdoing:

  • Betrayal
  • Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Manipulated
  • Cheated
  • Rejected

The urge to hold a grudge, give full vent to your anger, and/or retaliate in response to any of the above can be intense… 

I write this post not merely as a student of Scripture, but as one who knows the devastation that comes from being deeply wounded. I’m no stranger to this type of suffering and grappling with the choice to hold onto a hurt or extend forgiveness. 

I write with immense empathy and first-hand experience of the inner turmoil that accompanies the call to extend forgiveness after being wronged in a devastating way.

By God’s grace, He has healed my heart, and I’ve experienced freedom and wholeness. 

it’s with great humility and confidence, I present the good news that healing can be experienced and embraced by you as well.

The old adage that time heals all wounds is a lie.

Time doesn’t heal wounds, but the Lord Jesus Christ DOES!  

What does the Bible say about holding a grudge?

There are many Scripture references regarding how God’s people are to respond when another person wrongs them, and I’m so thankful for the many real-life scenarios provided in the Biblical text.

One perfect example that immediately comes to mind is from the Old Testament when Jocab’s sons sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery. 

The forgiveness Joseph extended to his brothers never fails to move me.

Joseph’s demonstration of forgiveness, love, mercy, and kindness is encouraging – and challenging.

Don’t hold onto anger!

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Eph. 4:31

Holding a grudge means you nurture the offense in response to someone who hurt, offended, or wronged you.

Nursing a grudge may involve:

  • Mentally rehearsing the infraction and the suffering it caused over and over in your mind. 
  • Recounting the incident to other people often.
  • View and treat the person who hurt you with negative thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

Nursing an offense will end up hurting you more!

“In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Eph. 4:26-27

The emotion of anger is not sinful in itself; it’s what you do in response to that emotion that’s key.

Holding onto anger and feeding that emotion has negative, costly consequences. Several Bible passages testify to this truth. Consider the escalation that can occur causing it to take root: 

  • Anger
  • Bitterness 
  • Resentment
  • Hatred

Allowing the progression of these emotions to become more intense and consuming gives the devil “a foothold”, paving the way for a spiritual stronghold as Ephesians 4:26 suggests.

As these negative emotions grow and become more consuming there will be increased evidence of this happening in a person’s life. Examples of this occurring may include one or more of the following:

  • A sense of irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Resentment
  • Depression 
  • Negative effect on other relationships 
  • Insecurity with other relationships
  • A distorted perspective on reality

The ironic thing about the term “holding a grudge” is that the grudge you think you’re holding… is actually holding onto YOU!

After anger takes root and blossoms it gains authority over you, having great power and influence over your thoughts, words, actions, attitudes, and behaviors. 

Let go of anger Bible verse

Allow Scripture to renew your mind.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:12

The more you nurture a grudge, the more central it becomes in your thinking. Your thoughts become more consumed by this unhealthy focus. 

We need to refuse this mental preoccupation that accompanies a root of anger, bitterness, or resentment.

When a grudge becomes ingrained in your thoughts, you’re in the grip of a spiritual stronghold. Very intentional steps must be taken to break free from a spiritual stronghold and take your thoughts captive to Christ.

Being consumed with past hurts and afflictions prevents joy, peace, and contentment in the present! 

Holding onto an offense negatively impacts your mental and physical health.   

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15

When a person seethes with bitterness, he or she cannot help it from “leaking out”.

The attitudes of the heart will spill out in our speech, so if our hearts are full of venom towards another person, this will be reflected in our words (Mt. 12:34), and in our actions – negatively effecting other people we rub shoulders with daily – by no fault of their own!

A warped sense of reality can develop, as well as a self-centered, selfish attitude

Don’t seek revenge!

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

We shouldn’t be surprised when our response to being mistreated is to seek justice; this desire isn’t wrong in itself.

Seeking revenge or wanting to get even is a common response to being hurt, but that’s not how Jesus called His people to respond. 

Dr. Tony Evans brings insight into this issue, “The Greek word translated forgiveness literally means, ‘to release’. Forgiveness is our choice to release a person from an obligation for a wrong committed against us. In the New Testament times, the word was used when canceling a debt.”

If we look at this issue from the perspective of canceling a debt, this shines a light on the biggest debt canceled, and it was on our behalf. 

Perfect segue as we turn the corner to how Jesus calls His people to respond when we’re wounded by others.

The importance of forgiveness

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has agreements against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

In our fallen world, forgiving others is not the knee-jerk reaction often modeled! A hot temper is often displayed with grievous words, a hasty temper, lashing out, and/or harboring hard feelings towards your offender. 

It is not uncommon for a hot-tempered man to take matters into his (or her) own hands and seek to get even, and it’s often seen as a socially acceptable response.

In order to have a proper mindset regarding forgiveness, we need to adjust our perspective vertically, not horizontally. 

  • It’s not up to us to determine if someone is worthy of our forgiveness. After all, we weren’t worthy of His forgiveness…. It was by God’s grace and mercy alone, and we did not deserve it.
  • It’s not up to us to dole out the consequences we deem fit for others… After all, we were spared death and given eternal life.
  • It is not our role to judge. There’s only One Judge, and everyone will give an account to Him. 

“Harboring resentment and unforgiveness is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

So much wisdom in these words. I wish I knew who said it to give him or her credit for it..

We think we’re somehow “getting back” at the other person in harboring our ill feelings towards them, when in reality – it’s ourselves we’re hurting.

We’re the ones in bondage when we refuse to forgive, not them.

Forgiveness frees you and is ultimately for your benefit

There are even documented benefits to our mental and physical health resulting from forgiveness! The Mayo Clinic suggests benefits of forgiveness include improved mental health, less anxiety, stress, and hostility, fewer symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and improved heart health!

forgive others as God forgave you bible verse

5 Important Facts Regarding Forgiveness 

I’ve personally experienced each of the following principles, and while they are not easy lessons to learn, it helps to be aware of them when you’re walking through a difficult situation.

1. Forgiving someone who deeply hurt you isn’t easy, but it is possible through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Saying forgiveness isn’t always easy is a gross understatement; extending true forgiveness is downright hard at times. 

We’re not able to forgive because we’re a great person. Nor do we forgive to get something good in return.

Our ability and motive to forgive others is rooted in who we are in Christ Jesus.

We never need to question whether it is the will of God for us to forgive, Scripture is very clear.

Our identity in Jesus and His indwelling Holy Spirit empowers us to do what we’re unable to do in our own strength.

As we surrender God gives us the grace to obey and let go of the offense – and the offender.

I well remember my journey to forgive the individual I referred to earlier in this post who hurt me deeply. 

I chose the word journey intentionally because it was a process.

I can remember someone telling me repeatedly, “You have a right to hate her.” It struck a chord deep within me because I know as a follower of Jesus I don’t have a right to hate anyone.

I literally prayed and asked God to give me the grace not to hate her, because in my flesh, I wanted to hate her.

I actually told the Lord that my desire to obey Him was stronger than my desire to hate her and to sin against Him in that way. 

God honors this type of raw honestly. He’s big enough to handle it. I remained respectful before Him, and also very honest.

2. Your ability to forgive someone is not dependent on the individual asking you for forgiveness.

We want our offender to know how deeply he or she hurt us.

We want them to feel remorse… we want them to feel genuinely sorry…

But we can’t make anyone feel those emotions. 

Even if they do, it’s often “not sorry enough” to satisfy us. 

We want them to feel remorse in proportion to what we experienced – and more often than not, it just doesn’t work that way. 

It’s possible to get comfortable holding onto our hurt and pain and it feels intimidating to let it go, but that’s a deception; there is freedom for you on the other side of forgiveness!

It’s possible to hold a grudge against someone who is dead.

Obviously, that person is unable to ask you for forgiveness – but you can still extend it.

Your offender may be oblivious to the depth he or she hurt you.

Even worse – they may know, and not even care.

In their indifference, it’s possible to forgive.  

Keeping with my personal example, my offender never asked me for forgiveness, nor did she have a repentant heart. Her indifference was salt to my wound. I had to lean into the Lord to be the One who comforted me.

His eyes saw every wound, the depth of it, and how it impacted my life. 

I had to trust Him that He is able not only to heal my heart but redeem all of the ugliness I endured.

3. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse what was done to you, or make it ok.

This is so important to understand; forgiving your offender doesn’t mean what they did was acceptable, right, or without grave consequences. It doesn’t “let them off the hook”, so to speak.

They will be held accountable for their actions – but you are not the one to whom they will give account.

One Judge, remember?

It wasn’t until I studied the Biblical meaning of forgiveness that I took notice of verbiage often used when it comes to apologies. Once my ears were in tune, it seemed I heard the following exchange often between two people:

“Oh sorry”… responded with a quick, “That’s ok.”

After my attention was drawn to this I started to correct my children and teach them to respond with, “I forgive you”, rather than “That’s ok”. 

Because a dismissive “it’s ok” is not a proper response to hurting someone, nor should it be an acceptable response to the one that was hurt.

I knew full well my offender’s actions were far from ok. By God’s grace, I never had the desire to seek revenge or get even with her.

4. There is a distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation

Forgiveness is yours to give, and you have control over this act.

Reconciliation, however, is a very different issue. 

It is absolutely possible to have forgiven someone, and not be reconciled in your relationship with him or her. 

A relationship involves two people, and you cannot change the way another person acts or responds. 

God knows our hearts and motives.

I’ve experienced this unfortunate situation more times than one, and it is very gut-wrenching when you do all you can to achieve reconciliation and it doesn’t happen.

I did what I felt the Lord was calling me to do to the best of my ability in my situations. 

I’ve learned the gut-wrenching lesson that you can’t make someone love you. Or want to be a part of your life. Or feel remorse over the way they hurt you.

You can’t change someone else’s “want-to”. Even if this relationship was one ordained by God in a family and placed in your life by Him, people have their free will, and we can’t control them.

In these painful instances, I had to choose to trust in Jesus and His sovereign plan and care for me.

I’m so thankful the Lord healed my heart and I can testify there is no resulting bitter root.

Unfortunately, reconciliation in my relationships didn’t happen, but I have the peace of Christ in knowing I honored the Lord best I knew how in my desire to honor Him and do what He called me to do in these situations.

I leave the results in His sovereign hands.

5. Your forgiveness may not change the other person’s perspective, thoughts, attitudes, or actions.

​Just because you had a change of heart does not mean the other person did or will!

And that can be a hard pill to swallow.

Once again, you can’t control how another person thinks or behaves. We need to seek God’s wisdom, direction, and discernment in these situations.

It may be beneficial in these circumstances to seek counsel from a Christian counselor to help make decisions to protect yourself, establish healthy boundaries, and help lead you in sound Biblical thinking in the midst of our situation. An unbiased third party can be very beneficial in these instances.

I sought Biblical counsel in my personal situation, and it was a needed and beneficial step. I only wish I had done so earlier in my situation. 

Pin How to stop holding a grudge bible verses on forgiveness with picture of a bridge

Additional thought provoking Bible verses on holding a grudge and forgiveness:

“For if you forgive other people when they send against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins..” Matthew 6:14-15

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

“Beloved, never avenge yourself, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him semicolon if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heat burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good..” Romans 12: 19-21

“An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” Proverbs 29:22

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18

It’s tempting to harbor resentment when people hurt, offend, or wrong us, but Scripture tells us to forgive.

Articles related to holding a grudge and forgiveness:

Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible: Powerful Lessons

Powerful prayers to break a spiritual stronghold

Break Free From Insecurity in Your Relationships


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