I had a conversation with someone recently which made me think of the relevance of this piece I wrote a while back. I hope you enjoy it.
Holding a grudge – How to give yourself an ulcer
By: Chalene Johnson
I have two friends who haven’t spoke in years. They used to be close friends. In fact, all three of us once shared a special bond. I’m still friends with both but their “split” and insistence on maintaining their mutual grudge changed my relationship with both. I feel awkward when one's name is mentioned in the company of the other. I purposely avoid any topic that might have those two worlds' collide. I'm a pretty reasonable person. I, honestly, can see both their points. I done trying to help one see the other's side of things. I've given up trying to mend their ship. It’s their cross to bar. (That's a lie. Their mutually shared grudge has become EVERYONE'S cross to bare.
Holding a grudge is about the surest way to develop an ulcer.
You may think your grudge is the private property of your personal opinion. You assume that because you have chosen to “write off”, “villainize” or simply “pity” this person that no one else is effected. They are. In fact, everyone close to you is effected in one way or another. Not by choice, your anger, resentment, hurt and frustration has become the burden of everyone around you. Your friend’s grudge, whether you agree with it or not, forces you to keep a healthy distance from the recipient of his anger. That’s what a grudge is, it’s anger. It’s anger, pain and hurt you’ve chosen to hold on to in the interest of preserving something. We hold onto anger, hurt, and resentment because they serve a purpose. Sometimes it is our need to be “right”, or to keep an unattainable dream alive. Sometimes we hold a grudge so that we can avoid looking at ourselves, or our part. It's a big price to pay.
Holding a grudge is like carrying a small vile of non-lethal, but potent poison that corrupts and sickens you and the people closest to you. The virus is released with the mere mention of the “other person’s name”. Ill prepared to reach a resolve, your family and friends try desperately to avoid encountering this person or situations of similarity. The mere mention of their name forms a pit in your stomach. You shift uncomfortably thinking of it. Your face changes expression. You work to change the subject. "Move on. New topic. I hate this person," are the words in your head. It's uncomfortable. It makes your heart beat faster.
Sit with this feeling. Sit with it for more than a moment. Let's analyze what it is you’re really feeling… it’s not disdain for that person, it's self disdain. Oddly enough it’s that the target of your grudge often makes you feel bad about yourself. Maybe it’s that they have an ill opinion of you, or they have brought to the surface qualities in yourself with which you struggle. You're probably a good person. Most of us are good people. There's something about this person that makes you feel less, unworthy, found out. For whatever reason, this person stirs up old dust, rips open unhealed wounds. My theory is (and I did take Psychology 101 in College and I watch Dr. Phil almost everyday, so that pretty much makes me an expert) that the onset of ALL of this stems from childhood experiences.
Grudges destroy families. They cause children to be raised with the pain of an otherwise avoidable divorce. Grudges sour friendships and destroy positive energy. Grudges suck the life from you and consume nearly every thought. When you relate to someone with a deep rooted, well publicized grudge, you carefully chose your words and never fully let your guard down. Grudge holders in the workplace make the office staff tension filled. Consciously or unconsciously, you ask those around you to share your grudge in order to prove their admiration for you. Yet no matter how many people love and support you, it takes only the presumed "wrong" of one person to send you spinning into attack mode. While you may not ask it, you expect that your husband, your friend, your sister and your coworkers will share you disdain for the individual who has done them no wrong or whom they have chosen to forgive or forget.
In business your grudge could cost another their job. I understand you didn’t ask for it. You didn’t hope for it, but by holding a grudge, you reap vengeance. The irony of a grudge is that the deepest cutting vengeance you deliver is to yourself. It’s an acid brewing in your belly. It's a wall of plexiglas that allows you to believe your close with others, but prevents you from truly, intimately connecting with even the people who love you unconditionally. It’s time to let go.
What does it mean to let go of a grudge? It means peace of mind. Letting go of a grudge means learning to enjoy life, perhaps for the first time. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgiven, reached an agreement or mended your fence. It might mean simply that you’ve come to accept what happen, accept their existence, believe in your own value and move on.
Jim Henson was in the middle of negotiating a life time deal with Disney when he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 53. The deal fell apart. His son Brian Henson was strapped with the responsibility of putting the deal back together. He recalled living under the dark cloud of a grudge he held for Disney. What pulled him into a healthier state of mind was recalling a childhood memory of his father, "I remember when I was 8 or 9, someone stole my father's camera and wallet from the trunk of his car [in a New York garage]. He just said, 'I guess they need it more than I do.' He closed the trunk; we drove home. He never mentioned it again. Someone else would have been angry for days. But it didn't cause my dad to stumble for a second."
What is a grudge? I suppose there are as many definitions as there are people. In my mind, holding a grudge means holding anger toward someone even after they have apologized, attempted to apologize or established that they have no intention of apologizing…ever. Holding a grudge is being angry with someone for something that happened years ago, the details of which have become fuzz, or which other would have long forgotten. Holding a grudge means harboring resentment for trivial or non-earth shattering matters that have more to do with your delicate ego than your sensibility.
Letting go of a grudge doesn’t mean you condone bad behavior or are actively seeking to rekindle a deep level of friendship. As Frederich Buechner states in Wishful Thinking, at its core, “forgiveness is an act of radical self-interest.” The expensive price of your many grudges is eroded happiness, potential joy never known.
Let go of your grudge and enjoy life again. To let go of a grudge is to forgive someone even when they have not asked for your forgiveness. It means acting in kindness or simply being polite even when you believe the other person is not worthy of it. Letting go of a grudge does not mean that you have to forget. In fact you should remember, so that you set your expectations more reasonably of this person. Remember, but move on.
I do believe you are either a grudge holder or you're not. To those who do and desperately want to stop, those who can admit the damage it causes, those who feel controlled by what other people think of them, those who feel the gnawing in their stomach but can't seem to change...there is work to be done but it starts with feeling better about yourself. Scrap the therapy phobias. You might feel the weight of the World lift from your shoulders with a just little time spent with a qualified therapist or counselor.
Holding your grudge only hurts you. It hurts daily and becomes a breeding ground for villainizing, paranoid, victim centered thinking. If not for you, let go of your grudge for the people around you. It’s no longer who was right or who “started it” or who has taken responsibility, now it’s who is intelligent enough to end it.
Enjoy your life more fully. Learn to forgive those who trespass against you.