Who Holds A Grudge? And Who Benefits From It?
Don't Hold a Grudge
Holding onto a grudge is something that, being human, we are apt to do. At one time or another, you probably have found someone's behavior or intentions unforgivable. But holding a grudge is counterproductive for the person who can't let go of it. It works like a slow leak, a small hole through which your energy continually seeps. Letting go of a grudge is actually healing. Finding a more constructive way to deal with your feelings is the key - you don't have to wait for the offending person to apologize.
Why Do We Hold onto Grudges?
Grudges stay with you, kind of like chewing gum on the bottom of your shoe. You probably have a belief that holding onto resentment will prevent you from ever being taken advantage of again. Ironically, a grudge maintains the illusion of having control while actually making you more vulnerable. For example, if your co-worker is giving a special presentation at a staff meeting, you may decide not to attend because of a grudge you hold against her. As a result, you are uninformed of some crucial decisions made at the meeting, and this my affect your job performance. Maybe you hold onto a grudge because you want revenge of some kind. Letting go of your grudge seems to let the other person off too easy. In reality, revenge is rarely satisfying. Consuming hatred or rage drains your energy, not the energy of the person you are angry with. Also, grudges provide excuses for not dealing with our own problems and short-comings. Often, it is easier to find fault with someone else instead of seeing the role you play in the episode. Consider the following when you realize you hold a grudge against someone:
The Mental Drain: A grudge can become all-consuming by plotting revenge, replaying what happened to you over and over in your mind, feeling sorry for yourself about being cheated, etc.
The Physical Drain: Anger can heighten physical stress, potentially contributing to heart disease, ulcers, and other health problems.
The Block to Progress: As long as you nurse a grudge, you won't think about constructive solutions to the problem. Your grudge "blinds" you. Expressing your hurt and asking for an apology gives you practice in assertiveness.
How to Get Rid of a Grudge
Determine whether the slight was real or imagined. Review the situation carefully. Think of alternative explanations for what happened to see if there's room to interpret the experience as a misunderstanding. Did the other person really mean to hurt you, or were they unwittingly insensitive about something that tends to bother you? Counter your internal "grudge talk" with common sense arguments.
Grudge talk: If I'm nice to others, they should be nice to me.
Counter argument: It would be great if the world worked that way, but it doesn't. I'm wise enough to realize that life isn't always going to be fair.
Grudge talk: I just can't stand that this has happened to me.
Counter argument: Of course I can stand it. I don't have to cave in emotionally and turn all my good feeling over to this one bad circumstance.
Grudge talk: This person is evil and horrible and deserves my hatred.
Counter argument: This person is human, like I am. They have bad days, problems in their lives I don't know about, and pressures from above at work. I can't control all the difficult people I meet in life, but I can control how much I let them get to me.
A Ritual About Letting Go
It helps to let go through a personal ritual that symbolizes letting go of a grudge. Although your serious side may say you're being silly, have a little ceremony that will evoke positive, empowering feelings whenever you think of your grudge. Here are some example rituals.
Banish your grudge from your life. After writing out your feelings about what happened to you, address an envelope to some fictional address in Siberia. Don't put a return address on the envelope so it can't come back. Mail it and imagine it ending up on the other side of the world. Granted, it will never actually make it to Siberia, but it will get lost forever in the U.S. postal system. What counts is that it won't find its way back into your life.
Talk your feelings through while recording them on a cassette - fill both sides of the cassette if you need to. Yell, curse or cry, but get it all out. When you've finished, drop the tape in a recycling bin for plastics. Imagine your useless grudge feelings being transformed into something functional but harmless, like a plastic jug. Or imagine your grudge turning into something very positive and constructive - like sturdy playground equipment for children.
Whatever personal ritual you come up with, the important thing is to concentrate on the wonderful feeling of letting go. Lending a bit of humor to your ritual helps you regain perspective. Holding onto a grudge may look like being in control, but actually it is in letting go that you gain control over your emotions.