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Who Holds A Grudge? And Who Benefits From It?

BIOMOM's picture

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.


stamina's picture

I think that I will have to print this off...thanks, Biomom! Making progress towards our own individual health and healing!

BIOMOM's picture

I have it posted on my bulletin board. I received it from someone who I happened to hate at the time...... Wink

Little Jo's picture

Good one Biomom. It's so fundamental, so simple,


Unfortunately, many of us deal with people that never learned this simple rule. And that what makes us alittle crazy. Grudges are useless, but we should be respected for dealing with those who are clueless.

stamina's picture

the silver rule...."do unto others as THEY would have you do unto them." We can never assume how people want to be treated. Something we discussed at work...not everyone's expectations, needs or wants are the same.

trinity's picture

Janice, I feel exactly the same and while I am sorry you are also going through the pain I am happy to know that I am not the only one holding the grudge so deeply. If I find a way through these betrayals I will let you know, maybe you can do the same for me---lol


OldTimer's picture

I don't really hold grudges, in less it's absolutely something that crossed the line. Or maybe I should rephrase it and say that I don't hold grudges for long. I tend to bitch, moan, and bicker about it, but usually I do just move on. It doesn't do me any good to dwell on it. But I DO LOVE to bitch about it! LOL... }:)

I think the only long term grudge I've ever had was with my BIL... and even to this day, I still don't trust him completely, but he's gone a long way, FINALLY grown up, now newly married, and so I have respect for him... still don't trust him completely, but we seem to be getting along better now anyway. I think he was a jerk, he thought I was a bitch- so we were even.

Wink StepMom

Man has the intelligence to change his life,
Sometimes, he just fails to use it...

Bonus Wife's picture

I didn't think I held grudges and tried to let some things go that happened during my engagement year..but when I have to make a point I usually bring up the past example by saying remember when.....even though the event doesn't "hurt" my feelings anymore. I guess I didn't let it go yet. I'm going to really try this time.

trinity's picture

Whe you bring up an example from the past is it really holding a grudge or is it using a reference point?
I use past situations as a reference point when my husband questions why I trust or don't trust certain situations. Then he accuses me of holding a grudge.
I don't think I am. I think I am learning from mistakes and using that knowledge. There is a difference. I think it's in the emotion and forgiveness.
I don't hate every thief that ever lived but I won't ever give them my credit cards or keys---lol


Candice's picture

reference point. I do the same exact thing as you...I remember how some people have treated me, and I reserve myself from them...and of course my dh says..."you are being vindictive..." I disagree, I'm not going out of my way to hurt them, I'm just using the memory as a reference point to protect myself from repeating the cycle.

I think that if you were to re-hash the bad incident everyday and be mad about it everyday, that would be holding onto a grudge.