On the Bearing of Grudges
From the Letters of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
YOUR HONOR, Mr. I. V., my most beloved brother in Christ! I heard that you had a court case against Captain F. L., in which he was accused of having dishonored you by some words of his, and that this L. is already long dead. I also heard that the deceased had sent to ask your forgiveness, and that not forgiving him, you now seek to dishonor his son. If this be true, I ask you to listen patiently and to act according to my advice.
First, remember that the keeping of grudges is the first gain in a person for the devil, who does not rejoice over anything so much as over a heart that harbors grudges. For the person who keeps grudges does not receive forgiveness from God, because he himself does not forgive. So Christ teaches in the Gospel: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15). And how will you pray to God: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” if you yourself do not forgive? Our brother is the same as we are; by his words he dishonored us; insulted us. But we are worms, earth, ashes, stinking filth. How many times each day we anger God, our Creator, the great and terrible Lord, before Whom the heavenly hosts are terrified and tremble! What kind of forgiveness do we hope to receive from God, when we do not forgive those who are like us? We sin against one another; we ought to forgive one another. Read the account in the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew; what is written at the end of the chapter is frightening for those who do not forgive their fellowmen.
Now you also know that you will die, and you do not know when; maybe today or tomorrow. And what if death finds you holding this grudge? L. showed his humility, and thus rewarded your dishonor by asking your forgiveness, and this way he was freed from his obligation to you; what more do you want now? You have the obligation to forgive your brother. If you do not forgive him, you will die with this obligation unfulfilled; then what mercy can you hope to receive from God? In what way is the son of L. guilty before you? Were you seeking a financial debt, then the son would have to pay for the father, because he inherited his father’s estate. But the father made the insult, and you seek to dishonor his son, as if the son were an accomplice in his father’s insulting you, as if he taught his father ---- which is impossible! I sincerely beg you to cut the whole knot of keeping grudges; forgive the brother his sin, release the deceased from his obligation, or rather, fulfill your obligation and do not remain indebted until death. And be reconciled to his son, for God’s sake.
Believe me, that all of this comes about because of the demon who tempts people into enmity. Therefore, spit on this whispering, inimical spirit that stirs up the thought of revenge, and obey Christ our Savior, the creator of the world, Who even prayed to the heavenly Father for those who crucified Him, and commanded us to do likewise, saying: “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you” (Luke 6:27). Forgive your fellow man in order to receive forgiveness from Christ; and what kind of forgiveness can you hope for, if you do not practice forgiveness yourself? He, against whom you have turned your anger, the son of a deceased father, is coming to you and will ask for forgiveness. Your friends will rejoice over your reconciliation; your servants will love you; your other neighbors will bless you; Satan will be tormented (for Christian love torments him terribly, just as enmity make him merry). This is what will be pleasing to Christ, the Son of God, the lover of peace. I, your unworthy pastor, on hearing of this, will be grateful and will rejoice in spirit, and will write your merciful name in my memory. Do this act of mercy; first for your own sake, that you might receive mercy from God in this way; and then for your brother’s sake, who comes to you with humility, that he might be set at ease. And you will be doing a favor for me, for you will be fulfilling my wish. May the merciful God, the giver of peace, soften and so dispose your heart.
I have written this to you as an official duty. May each one receive the mercy he seeks!
Now I am sending also a most holy icon of the Savior of both you and me; it is in His name that I appeal to you. This name is marvelous to the angels, beloved of the apostles, martyrs, hierarchs and monks, and sweet to us sinners; because in it alone is our hope and expectation. Cease keeping grudges; I ask you again for this according to my duty. And when you do this, let me know, for it will be beneficial for me, when you are reconciled.
Finally, I conclude with this: this my wretched and unworthy writing will be my witness and your accuser at the terrible judgment of Christ. And when someone advises you contrary to this, do not pay heed to him: that is from the spirit of the Evil One. Read the whole Gospel and you can see this. Until your reply, I remain
Your honor, my merciful Sire’s humble servant, unworthy intercessor, the most unworthy bishop of Voronezh, TIKHON
December 4, 1764
Taken from Orthodox Life, Volume 27, No. 4, July – August 1977, published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
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