“There’s no way I’m going to work with him again, that’s for sure!” I vowed to my friends as we chatted over dinner at our college’s dining hall.
The “him” in question was someone I didn’t know well but had been paired with for a project in one of my classes. Largely because my partner had opted to do his portion of the work at the last minute, without leaving time to double-check it before submitting it, we’d received a disappointing grade, and I just wasn’t letting it go.
In fact, this wasn’t the first time I’d brought it up with my friends. They’d been sympathetic, but this time, one said, “Liz, it’s been a month! Why are you still dwelling on this?”
Well, that was quite the wake-up call! I suddenly realized that not only had I been carrying this grudge for weeks, I had also convinced myself that clinging to it was the “right” way to handle the situation. But as I thought about it, in my heart of hearts I knew that what I most wanted, and what would feel most right, was to be at peace, free of the burden of resentment.
I have found that striving to follow Christ Jesus’ teachings and example brings blessings, and in this case, I thought of his response when his disciple Peter cut off the ear of one of the men who had come to take Jesus to be crucified (see Luke 22:47-51). Jesus healed the man’s ear, and the book of Matthew says that he chastised Peter: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (26:52).
Of course, my experience was nowhere near the scale of the trials Jesus overcame. But this account helped me see that reacting with bitterness simply pulls us down a bitter path – and clouds our own understanding of what is right and good. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, explains: “Peter would have smitten the enemies of his Master, but Jesus forbade him, thus rebuking resentment or animal courage” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 48).
We can see from the rest of Jesus’ ministry that he wasn’t simply asking Peter to give in to some inevitable evil, or to accept a wrong as right. Jesus rebuked evil time and time again. But the underlying issue is not based in a person. Because man is made in the spiritual image and likeness of the infinite, good God (see Genesis 1:26, 27), anything that isn’t good is not part of who we truly are. And if we’re accepting otherwise about someone else, we ourselves are not thinking in accord with man’s real, spiritual nature.
I saw that by defining this classmate as deserving of a personal grudge, I was seeing him in a false light. Instead of cherishing the spiritual qualities inherent in us all, I was choosing to dwell on unhelpful points, refusing to even acknowledge any good in this person. And in doing so, I was acting unnaturally – contrary to my own identity as God’s, divine Love’s, creation.
As I thought about all this quietly while my friends talked among themselves, I happened to see this classmate walking across the far end of the dining hall; to my great surprise, I found that the resentment had melted away. The change was so noticeable that when I burst out with a cheerful “Oh! There he is now!” my companions initially thought I was referring to another friend.
Shortly afterward, I was again assigned to work with this person. I felt completely at peace with the situation, which ended up being a harmonious, productive experience. And it turned out that the professor made an adjustment to the grading policy for group work, which meant there were no long-term ramifications of the earlier project’s grade.
We can experience a freedom from resentment that goes deeper than merely willing ourselves to move on through seeing more clearly that because God is good, there is no real basis for anything but good in man, His reflection. This includes others as well as ourselves. We can all strive to put these truths into practice in our own experience, and to fulfill the biblical plea, “Grudge not one against another, brethren” (James 5:9).