We're all familiar with holding grudges. We all get angry when someone treats us poorly. The anger may last a few minutes, days, months or years. The longer it lasts, the deeper the resentment can become. Today’s readings suggest that holding a serious grudge is not a very good idea. “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight,” says today’s first reading from Sirach. “The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” Holding on to anger doesn’t do us any good. In fact, it causes the one who suffered the offense even more harm. Coming on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, today’s readings remind us that hatred has no place in the life of faith. There is a saying in the 12-step world that goes something like this: “Resentment is like eating poison and hoping someone else will die.” This strikes me as pretty close to what today’s reading is saying. Resenting someone else only hurts the person carrying the resentment.At the end of the day, to hold on to anger at another person is to act as though others are “worse” than we are, and are undeserving of God’s mercy.Now, it’s one thing to be able to let go fairly petty resentments. If someone ignores you at a party, doesn’t return a call, or fails to honor commitments they’ve made, it can be hurtful. But we can, as we say, get over it.Deeper resentment comes from deeper betrayal. When someone physically harms you or a loved one, or someone you love doesn’t love you back, the betrayal and rejection can be devastating. In no way am I naïve enough to say, “Just let it go.” Events like this can haunt us, even when we wish we could indeed get over it.But it is still the case that it’s not doing us any good to “hug” anger and vengeance. I know what it’s like to be controlled by someone else’s choices. I’ve defined years of my life based on a set of wrongs I felt had been done to me. I was suffering due to the choices of someone else. That’s how I viewed myself and presented myself. At some point, however, I realized that I was only prolonging my own suffering, and impeding my relationships with my family and friends from moving forward. I was eating spiritual poison hoping to punish another person, but it only made me ill.Today’s Gospel reading tells the story of a generous king who forgives the debts of his servants. When one of his subjects turns and demands payment from someone who owes him a small amount, the king is outraged.“I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to,” the king says. “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”Wrath and anger are indeed hateful things. The good news for all of us, of course, is that wrath and anger are hateful to God. The kingdom of heaven operates on compassion and mercy, which we all need. At the end of the day, to hold on to anger at another person is to act as though others are “worse” than we are, and are undeserving of God’s mercy. We will all bear the consequences of our positive and negative choices in life, but fortunately, God is much quicker to forgive than we often are.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]