I just found out that about 40 years ago I said something that offended a fellow church member that I was unaware of. I went with our pastor to his home and apologized. His words were, “I’ll forgive, but I will never forget.” I feel embarrassed, hurt, and humiliated every time I see him. How can I deal with myself as a Christian knowing that someone is carrying a grudge against me now, and for all these years?
—A Struggling Christian
Dear Struggling Christian:
Let me affirm you for your desire to grow through this situation, and for doing the right thing by going to apologize in the presence of others. This carries out the spirit of Matt. 18 in attempting to resolve conflict between persons in the body of Christ. In fact, this is the action that your fellow church member would have been wise to follow 40 years ago. Coming to you directly rather than holding a grudge for 40 years would have saved him a lot of internal energy.
If, as you suggest, he is still holding a grudge, then he has offered the technical words of forgiveness, but has not done the work of forgiveness. The work of forgiveness, which actually is his work and not yours, would be to figure out why he has chosen to hold onto the negative memory for so long and how he could take the negative charge off of the event, hence, letting it go.
In your meeting with this fellow Christian, there has been a silent transfer of some of that negative energy to you, manifesting as embarrassment, hurt, and humiliation. To some extent, this event of 40 years ago now has power over you. Similar to your fellow Christian, it would be wise to ask why you would chose to hold onto this when you have actually done all that you can do to resolve it. Is there forgiveness work on your part that now needs to be done? In your daily conversations with God, would you be able to trust God enough to let God work on the heart of the other person and no longer take responsibility for how your fellow Christian has responded to your apology?
A simple way to practice this would be the following: when you see him, catch your own feelings of embarrassment, hurt, and humiliation; pause for a moment and give those feelings to God; then, ask God to heal the heart of the one who is still holding a grudge.
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