Monday, August 7, 2017

Old Grudges

Last week I wrote about President John Quincy Adams and the dismal perception he had of himself. That poor image was nothing compared to the disdain he held for his political rival, the man who cost him a second term in the White House, Andrew Jackson.

Upon hearing that his alma mater was going to confer an honorary degree upon Jackson in 1833, Adams wrote a scathing letter to the president of Harvard. In it he explained why he would not attend the ceremony: “As myself an affectionate child of our Alma Mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest literary honor upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell his own name.”

Indeed, Jackson was an uneducated, orphaned Southern farmer; in his letters he would not only misspell a large number of his words, but he would frequently misspell the same word different ways in the same piece of correspondence. Be that as it may, Jackson proved to be a successful man, passing the bar exam and making good money as a lawyer in North Carolina, serving as Tennessee’s first member in the House of Representatives and later a senator, and was the first governor of Florida (prior to statehood); he was also a war hero, revered throughout the country for his successes as a general.

Adam’s criticism of Jackson shows that he was still holding a grudge three years after the election. Jackson may have been a “barbarian,” but he was a successful barbarian, and one that had defeated the educated Adams. Holding on to old grudges is not healthy, and it brings out the worst in us. It distorts our view and gives us a wrong perception of reality.

Beyond that, holding on to grudges is wrong because the Bible says it is. Paul told the Ephesian Christians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).”

Being tenderhearted might not seem like a desired trait between two alpha males who just squared off in their second heated campaign in four years, but it is what God wants from us, and Jesus is our example. If you are holding on to a grudge, don’t be like President Adams; instead, take the advice from Queen Elsa and just let it go. It’s the best way to live.

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