I once heard a preacher say that having an unforgiving spirit is like a man who grabs a bear by the tail—both man and bear are caught in that scenario. A bear does not have a long tail, like that of a rhesus monkey. If someone wants to grab a bear’s tail, he has to get up close and personal.

If you were able to successfully sneak up on a bear and grab its tail, what is your next move? You can say you have trapped the bear, but in reality, you are the one who is trapped. You have gained the beast’s attention, and he will soon spin around and face you with his menacing teeth and massive paws.

Holding on to unforgiveness is like holding the bear’s tail: it will not end well for us. But once we choose to let go of the grudge, there might be a little pain, but it will actually set us free. The longer we refuse to forgive, the more harm we do to our own soul. We lose our joy, and we gradually become miserable people.

In Luke 6:37, Jesus succinctly said, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Paul echoed the words of the Savior when he told the Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (4:32).”

Even the model prayer instructs us to forgive those who trespass against us.

Forgiveness is never optional in the life of a Christian. We are commanded to forgive. We have to be willing to let go, not of the bear’s tail, but of the offense that we are harboring. But how often we insist that the person does not deserve our forgiveness! Where do we see that caveat of deservedness? Paul said we forgive as God forgave us. Who among us is deserving of God’s forgiveness?

Forgiveness is never deserved. The very nature of forgiveness implies that someone has committed an infraction, and is therefore guilty. We want to receive forgiveness when we are the offender, so we must likewise be willing to extend it to the guilty party.

You would never grab a bear by the tail because you know you will get hurt. So don’t hold on to unforgiveness for the same reason.