Are you holding onto a grudge? Who of us hasn’t? You bet I have.
If you’ve had a wrong done to you, whether actual or perceived, grudges are a completely natural human response. Turns out, it’s not the wrong itself you respond to. It’s the pain, hurt, bitterness, jealousy, etc. you feel as a result of said wrong.
A grudge may begin as a wrong done to you, but it grows stronger and deeper because of the feelings it invokes within you. When you think of the wrong it may be with clenched fists, 100% blaming the other person but the resulted feelings are what keeps it going.
We tell ourselves we’ll let go when the transgressor does a certain thing to right the situation.
Then we put conditions on what the desired action should be. However, the reality is the other person has most likely moved on from whatever happened and will never do what the wronged individual wants. This results in the grudge holder, well, holding onto the grudge. According to Dr. Rachel O’Neill, a licensed clinical counselor, people “who hold grudges often get caught in a cycle because they expect something from the person who wronged them, but that expectation hasn’t been fulfilled.”
Why then do we hold onto grudges if they cause us so much pain and hurt? After all, grudges keep us in the past unable to move forward. According to a 2015 article written by Nancy Colier, LCSW, Rev. for Psychology Today, holding a grudge gives us an identity, usually that of victim or someone “wronged.” This identity, then, gives a reason for having the feelings we hold. In the mind of the wronged, it justifies why they feel as they do and how they behave because of it. Ms. Colier states holding grudges “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.” She says that the anger, bitterness, etc. we hold is a “cry to be cared about and treated differently—because of what we have endured.”
Sound Like Someone You Know?
Or perhaps this someone is you? (although truth be told, it’ll be hard to view yourself as such). But chances are, you know a number of people who play the victim so they get attention and empathy from others because they were wronged.
One predictor uses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). These personality types are more likely to hold grudges:
• ESFP (Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving): Usually does not like to hold onto negative feelings. However, if they feel betrayed by someone they care about, they are most likely to never let go of the grudge.
• ENFJ (Extroverted Intuitive Feeling Judging): Can hold grudges for a long time, even forever, because the hurt was something on a profound, deep level.
• INFJ (Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging): This type is an all or nothing kind of person. They can forgive many transgression but once they have had enough, they are done. This means that they will hold a grudge for a very long time because there is no going back.
Or if you’re a horoscope reader, it’s said five signs tend to hold long-term grudges: Aries, Cancer, Taurus, Scorpio and Aquarius.
According to WebMD, holding a grudge is bad for one’s health. One effect of holding a grudge is that it intensifies a feeling of physical pain even if the pain has nothing to do with the grudge. It also can cause a rise in blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, stomach ulcers and headaches. People who harbor grudges have higher stress levels and stronger negative emotions. There is also a higher chance of cardiovascular disease due to holding a grudge for long periods of time.
While these steps to let go of your grudge seem to be easy enough to do, keep in mind that letting go of things emotionally may take time and assistance from a professional. Here are a few suggestions:
• Admit that while there was a wrong done, you can forgive the person. This isn’t for them, but for you. You might not forget it, but you’ll no longer harbor it in your mind.
• Admit a part of you, no matter how tiny, likes the identity of a “victim” or someone “wronged.” You like that people give you sympathy and attention because of it.
• Give up the idea that the other person must apologize or do something to show they were guilty of the wrongdoing.
• Realize that YOU control your emotions and how you react. Do not let the emotions control you.
• Begin to shift your focus from the incident and the feelings attached to things in your life that bring you happiness and joy. Seek out people who make you laugh and do things that make you happy.
The beauty of letting grudges rest is that this frees you to focus on the positive relationships you have. It allows you to be in the present and look to the future rather than the past. Need more help? A book I used in my own process of letting go of hurt and grudges was The Bait of Satan: Living Free From The Deadly Trap of Offense by John Bevere. This book profoundly changed my life and allowed me to walk away from a 20 year hurt. If you are holding onto hurt, take comfort…we’ve all experienced this in some form or other. But please find a way to let it go.
As the saying goes, holding on is like drinking poison and expecting the other to suffer. Instead, seek a life full of joy and happiness! Focus on the good and let the bad roll away.