How Life is Too Short for Grudges
If someone has ever held a grudge against you, you know how trying and tiring it is. You feel like they need to just “move on,” especially if you have apologized and offered a mea culpa. Even if you haven’t, you might think the passage of time is enough to let bygones be bygones. Of course, sometimes it’s a bit different when someone wrongs you. Being wronged can hurt, and it could engender all sorts of negative feelings towards your wrong-doer. It is normal to feel upset or angry with other people sometimes, however it’s not healthy to be stuck in the same state of hostility and internal unrest for extended periods of time. Grudge-holders tend to amplify their hurt and intensify the negative emotions, and they also tend to prolong their own suffering as a way of letting others – especially the wrong-doer – know that they have been mistreated. Meant as a tactic to “teach a lesson” to a wrong-doer, it never works the way they intended; the one who really suffers is not the wrong-doer – it’s the grudge-holder.
So why is it so easy to form a grudge and so hard to let go of it? Many people hold on to their grudges for years, even when the party who had hurt them has long since moved on (or even passed away) and no one seems to remember the entire matter. Despite the fact that grudges are painful and require energy to perpetuate, grudge-holders believe that grudges can be justified, in some instances even encouraged. For those who have never held a grudge against another person it might be challenging to comprehend the grudge-holder’s point of view and characteristic rationale, which typically includes:
- It’s easier to hate than forgive someone
- Not everyone deserves
- Grudges help shield oneself against future hurt
- Grudges help guard oneself from wicked people
- Grudges help oneself feel “being right”
- Grudges feel satisfying as a way of punishing the wrong-doer
- Grudges can give a sense of purpose to a grudge-holder
- Grudges can help recover from a serious offence and stand up for oneself in the future
The wording of their reasons varies, yet it essentially comes down to the same point – protection and comforting of the self. Even though a grudge-holder’s anger and bitterness are directed toward the person who wronged them, grudges are really not about penalizing the wrong-doers – they are about consoling those who’ve been wronged. If you ever asked why we chose to keep living on past experiences of pain it starts with identity. With our grudge intact, we know who we are—a person who was “wronged.” As much as we don’t like it, there also exists a kind of rightness and strength in this identity. We have something that defines us—our anger and victimhood—which gives us a sense of solidness and purpose. We have definition and a grievance that carries weight. But what are we really trying to get at, get to, or just get by holding onto a grudge and strengthening our identity as the one who was “wronged”? In truth, our grudge, and the identity that accompanies it, is an attempt to get the comfort and compassion we didn’t get in the past, the empathy for what happened to us at the hands of this “other,” the experience that our suffering matters. By painting yourself as a victim you are announcing that you are deserving of extra kindness and special treatment. Our indignation and anger is a cry to be cared about and treated differently—because of what we have endured. The problem with grudges is that other than being a drag to carry around is that they don’t serve the purpose that they are there to serve. They don’t make us feel better or heal our hurt. At the end of the day, we end up as proud owners of our grudges but still without the experience of comfort that we ultimately crave, that we have craved since the original wounding. We turn our grudge into an object and hold it out at arm’s length—proof of what we have suffered, a badge of honor, a way to remind others and ourselves of our pain and deserving-ness trying to grab attention from others when in fact the reality is that not one is special. But in fact our grudge is disconnected from our own heart; while born out of our pain, it becomes a construction of the mind, a story of what happened to us. Our grudge morphs into a boulder that blocks the light of kindness from reaching our heart, and thus is an obstacle to true healing. Sadly, in its effort to garner us empathy, our grudge ends up depriving us of the very empathy that we need to release it. What grudge-holders don’t realize, however, is that holding on doesn’t make the wrong be righted. In Chinese philosophy, yin-yang is described as, “how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.” The yin-yang of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are like a gas pedal and a brake that work together within your body to maintain homeostasis and balance. Ideally, the yin-yang of cortisol and oxytocin work together to create eustress, which is the “good stress” linked to passion and purpose; while reducing distress, which is the “bad stress” linked to disease. If left unregulated, holding a grudge can create loneliness, isolation, and pent-up anger that creates an uptick in cortisol and lowers oxytocin.
So how can we let go of grudges?
To let go of our grudge, we have to be willing to let go of our identity as the “wronged” one, and whatever strength, solidity, or possible sympathy and understanding we receive through that “wronged” identity. We have to be willing to drop the “I” who was mistreated and step into a new version of ourselves, one we don’t know yet, that allows the present moment to determine who we are, not past injustice. The path to freedom from a grudge is not so much through forgiveness of the “other” (although this can be helpful), but rather through loving our own self. To bring our own loving presence to the suffering that crystallized into the grudge, the pain that was caused by this “other,” is what ultimately heals the suffering and allows the grudge to melt. If it feels like too much to go directly into the pain of a grudge, we can move toward it with the help of someone we trust, or bring a loving presence to our wound, but from a safe place inside. The idea is not to re-traumatize ourselves by diving into the original pain but rather to attend to it with the compassion that we didn’t receive, that our grudge is screaming for, and bring it directly into the center of the storm. Our heart contains both our pain and the elixir for our pain. In re-focusing our attention, we find the soothing kindness and compassion that the grudge itself desires. In addition, we take responsibility for caring about our own suffering, and for knowing that our suffering matters, which can never be achieved through our grudge, no matter how fiercely we believe in it. We can then let go of the identity of the one who was “wronged,” because it no longer serves us and because our own presence is now righting that wrong. Once you are able to let go of the idenity of being wronged you can idenitfy your trigger, the source of the grudge comes from what a person has done to hurt you, and its aftermath, and what that hurt means to you. There may be multiple components to your grudge, so you need to analyze what actually happened between you and your wrong-doer. Did you discuss the incident? Was that person really wrong or was it a misunderstanding? Was it truly a major offense or just an unfortunate accident? Be honest with yourself! Did they apologize? If so, why are you still discontented and unable to put the matter to rest? Did the wrong-doer hit a nerve of something very dear to you? Did they apologize in a manner you felt was inadequate for the crime? Once you have your answers, try to impartially reconcile the intensity of your grudge with the severity of the said misconduct; your grudge can grow more exaggerated with time, and the real reason for your anger may not be worth the energy spent on sustaining your grudge. After you have identify your triggers acknowledge your feelings. All of them. Anger might be the strongest emotion you can identify, but it rarely walks alone. Resentment, frustration, sadness, envy and jealousy are some of the less obvious yet very potent feelings that feed into your grudge. Don’t try to deny or ignore them if you really want to overcome your grudge. Recognize the emotions and then make a conscious choice to release them. You can put a time limit; say, “I will be sad for the next two hours and then I will let the sadness go forever.” It’s like losing a part of you at first, but then you might find you can fill the emptiness with something more positive and creative. Ackowledging your feelings will let you let go of the past.Let’s face it, every moment is a new one and holding grudges is not productive. It doesn’t punish the other person, it doesn’t teach him or her a lesson; more often than not, it doesn’t even bother your wrong-doer that you are holding a grudge. The only person whose life your grudge is affecting is you. Stop dwelling on it. Leave the grudge behind. Stop punishing yourself, and spend that time and energy on things that make you happy. Grudges get in the way of your progress in life; live in the “now” and make the most of the relationships and opportunities that each day has to offer. Without the need for our grudge, it often simply drops away without our knowing how. What becomes clear is that we are where we need to be, in our own heart’s company.
1. Do you hold grudges?
2. Why do people hold grudges?
3. how can you let go of grudges? what is the first step of letting go of an grudge?
4. How do people seek attention from grudges? Why do grudges make people feel like they are special when reality stands no one is special?
5. How do people who hold grudges never change? how do they stay the same?
6. how does holding grudges prevent us form being able to experince new experinces?
7. Is it more unforgivable to hold an grudge than not being sorry? how so?
8. how does letting go of grudges end the cycle of hatred?
To live is to risk it all; otherwise you’re just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you