A while back, a coworker who was a good friend of mine made a move in my business to stab me in the back. I thought I had forgiven him and moved on, but when I see or hear anything about him, I still get angry. As a Christian, I know I must forgive and that holding a grudge will only hurt me in the end. I am really trying, but my emotions are struggling to let go. Why am I still holding onto this?
– Thanks, Anonymous
Thank you for writing and sharing your dilemma. There is no better time to resolve issues than the start of a brand-new year.
According to Merriam-Webster, to forgive means to pardon or cease to feel resentment against an offender. Our ability to pardon or relinquish resentment depends on things like the relationship or the depth of the offense.
Overcoming an offense is often tough in close relationships because we can’t imagine those close to us slighting us. We expect our friends to be with us through thick and thin. In the face of adversity, we need our allies. When they turn out to be the opposition, it is a devastating blow. As you point out, it feels like a stab in the back, which is a common feeling when a friend or loved one turns against us.
As for the depth of the offense, different transgressions lead to different responses. If a coworker you are attached to takes a job somewhere doing something else, it might sting a little, but there shouldn’t be any lasting hard feelings. On the other hand, if that same employee took a job with a competitor and lured some of your customers to follow, you would likely feel resentment and be angry. I’m not sure of the circumstances in your situation, but you can see how the level of response should range with the offense.
You also express how Christians are supposed forgive and refusing to do so can be costly. Jesus said “if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:14, 15, KJV). Seeing as how none of us are perfect and will all need God’s forgiveness, we can’t afford not to forgive one another. After all the second great commandment is to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt 22:39). How can we expect mercy from God if we can’t give it to one another?
For Christians there are stipulations to forgiveness. When someone offends us, we are supposed to confront that person. The Bible tells us to rebuke that person and then if they repent, we are to forgive them (Luke 17:3).
These stipulations are important because they allow us to gain the other person’s perspective. Without confrontation they may not even realize they have offended us or that we are upset. Confrontation also provides a perfect opportunity for repentance. Maybe they had a good reason for their actions and are truly sorry for any repercussions. Regardless of the trespass, none of us want to hold an unwarranted grudge, and confrontation helps us learn all the details.
As you are finding out, the difficult part often resides in feeling resentment against the offender. Even when we want to let go and pardon, the sight or thought of our offender can trigger anger. When that person is a friend, we feel betrayed. It is normal to feel anger and resentment after experiencing betrayal. Betrayal is associated with trust and trust takes time to rebuild after it is broken. Even if that trust is never fully restored, we must learn to forgive before we can fully heal and let go of animosity.
As tough as it may be, I recommend confronting your friend. Go to them with an open mind and open heart. Think about all the reasons you considered them a good friend. Be honest and tell them how the incident made you feel. At best, you reconcile and regain your friendship. At worst, you learn they were not your friend in the first place. At the very least, you will gain an explanation. Whatever the outcome, you should glean a sense of closure for this event. We must remember that simple communication can help avoid conflict.
I hope this helps, and I hope you can reconcile with your friend and get past the hurt. Good friends are hard to come by and worth holding onto. If the relationship is too far gone, at least you can fully let go and begin to heal.