Grudges are complicated – get rid of them!
Many people hold grudges, sometimes deep ones, and they can last forever. They can come from resentments, jealousies and anger about any perceived painful mistreatment. Grudges can be complicated to maintain, and seeking justice is difficult. A grudge forces us to live in a past experience that was painful. This keeps us stuck and unable to move on to new experiences. Keeping old emotional wounds open and active also keeps us as the victim, the one who was wronged – not a happy identity to have.
Examples of grudges vary widely. I have a friend who holds grudges against anyone who slighted or mistreated her husband, ever. Another friend holds a grudge against a sibling she felt mistreated her when they were children, and another friend holds a grudge against her mother who she thinks had a clear favorite child when she was growing up, and it wasn’t her. Grudges can last a lifetime because it can be difficult to let go of the anger felt towards those who wronged you or someone you love.
What’s going on by holding onto a grudge? Psychologists tell us that the grudge is our attempt to get the empathy we didn’t get at the time the offense was happening. We have an identity as the victim and it allows us to hold on to that identity. We are waiting for the compassion we should have received at the time. The problem is that holding onto the grudge doesn’t serve up the solution we’d like. Grudges don’t make us feel better or heal the pain. People whose identity as a victim, someone who is wounded, can also have a feeling that they are always in the right. That can be very tiresome to be around or live with.
What to do if you hold a grudge:
To let go of a grudge is to free yourself from it. To do that, psychologists tell us, you must get in touch with the original pain the grudge caused and let it melt away. Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven. This can be done either with the help of a professional, someone we trust, or by oneself. Letting go of a grudge is to basically kill it with kindness. Bring compassion and forgiveness to the grudge – yes, that happened, it was wrong, and hurt, and it’s over. Take away the power that the ‘perp’ had at the time to hurt you, and still has since you’re holding onto the pain, by moving the focus from the person who wronged you, onto you. Let it become part of your story, but no longer be toxic. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, but it does bring peace. Don’t define your life by who and what has hurt you.
What to do if you have someone holding a grudge against you:
If you did do something wrong, apologize for it. If you don’t think you did anything wrong but are aware that the other person thinks you did, let them know you understand they have a different perspective of the event, and that you didn’t intend to hurt them, and are sorry. Next, ask how you can make things better. Again, be prepared for the person to not be willing to let go of the grudge because it is now part of their identity. Once you have apologized and made a case for your defense, all you can do is leave it be, and hope the other person will begin to let it go. If nothing changes, move on.
There is growth to be had around holding then facing and eliminating grudges – once the ‘note to self’ is made, let the grudge go. Grudges help us become better people because we don’t want to do to others what has been done to us. They help us learn what is good behavior and what is bad. Then, letting go of the grudges will help us stop being victims and develop understanding for those who hurt us. It often turns out that those who hurt us did it for their own complicated reasons.