“Ask a Priest: Could I Hold Grudges in Heaven?”

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Q: I tend to be a bit of a grudge holder, and there are lots of people in this world that I really can’t stand to be around. I feel like this feeling is here to stay no matter what I do, so I am wondering if I were to die and go to heaven, would it still be a crime to want to avoid them completely even when I’m there if they were to somehow make it up there too? – D.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Holding grudges against people can be a serious sin against charity. It shows a manifest refusal to forgive others.

As such, it is the kind of offense that could keep a soul from reaching heaven.

It might be worth pondering that reality.

Jesus is willing to forgive us our many sins. In turn, he asks us to forgive others. He warns, “If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:15).

Notice that this is not a mere suggestion from Our Lord.

So much did Jesus drive home the point that he included that petition in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

A few clarifications might make things easier in the way of love and forgiveness.

First, Jesus tells us to love one another. But he doesn’t insist that we have to like one another.

Loving someone means that we wish the best for the person and that we hope he reaches heaven someday.

Liking someone means that we find a person naturally agreeable. Our personalities match. We get along easily. While that is OK as far as it goes, it doesn’t go deep enough.

We might like the guy at work who’s always joking and always buying coffee and doughnuts for the office. But we might not care that he’s on his fourth marriage or that he’s a borderline alcoholic. We might like him, but we don’t love him in the Christian sense that we are really concerned about his soul.

Then there is the act of forgiveness itself. Forgiveness is an act of the will, not the feelings. We can make an act of forgiveness even if our feelings for someone are still bruised.

The key thing is that we want to forgive. We can’t control our feelings so easily, however. Feelings tend to drag up the rear. So don’t worry if, after forgiving someone, you still feel the wounds that he inflicted on you. Feelings take a while to dissipate.

If you want to go deeper into this topic sometime, the book Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach might be helpful.

Again, this is the kind of thing to ponder in the light of eternity.

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