Grudges must feel satisfying in some way; if they didn’t, we might not be as likely to hold on to them for so long. Maybe we get some temporary satisfaction when acting in a passive-aggressive way toward the people we hold grudges against.
If so, that meager recompense we gain from treating someone badly or ostracizing them hardly begins to balance out all the negative effects of holding a grudge. If we are unable to let go of a grudge, we face time lost stewing over it, the anger that can embitter us in many ways for years, and the potential health problems that result from the anxiety, depression, increased heart rate, and elevated blood pressure that grudges can cause.
Learning how to let go of a grudge will be demanding, but it can help restore a relationship if that’s your goal. However, reconciliation is not a requirement. Some people don’t deserve it; some grudges come out of conflicts repulsive enough to make you realize that you don’t want to deal with that person any longer.
With that in mind, we’ll now look at four steps that’ll help you let go of a grudge.
Step 1 – Find the source of the grudge
You know what was done to you, but surely you’ve been burned or insulted many times in the past — we all have — and you don’t hold on to those — what keeps this grudge festering? You need to examine the issue to find its true source before you can let go of a grudge.
Is your festering grudge due to the fact that you haven’t forgiven the offending person despite their apology? Keep in mind that forgiveness doesn’t make everything all right. As noted by Dr. Katherine Piderman, the Mayo Clinic’s staff chaplain, to forgive is not to condone, to relieve responsibility or to excuse the behavior; forgiveness is a personal act that can transfer emotional control back into your hands.
Are you allowing your pride to have too much sway? If so, great idea — humankind has only been asserting the pitfalls of having too much pride for hundreds of years. Surely your own pride will be the exception.
Step 2 – Rationalize its impact on your life
Have you ever been dating a woman when, out of the blue, she tells you that she has been upset about something you did last month? Your initial reaction, which you’re better off holding in, to her inability to let go of a grudge might be to laugh. Why has she been keeping that inside for so long — or has she? Suddenly, you remember an instance or two when she denied you sex for no ostensible reason or seemed to take an extra long time getting ready to go out one night when you were in a hurry. Forgive the stereotype, but women hold on to grudges longer than men; after all, men invented the grudge match.
Step 3 – Change the course of your relationship
Living with a grudge is a way of life as much as it is an attitude, so when you let go of a grudge it should initiate a change in your relationship with the offending person — a change that, at this step, ought to be reflected in your behavior.
If you have decided to restore the relationship, then it’s time to cut out the passive-aggressive behavior and the cold-shoulder treatment. If you have decided that the incident that sparked the grudge revealed something about their character that has put you off permanently, it’s time to distance yourself.
Do one or the other. You can’t do both.
Step 4 – Leave the grudge behind
The last necessary step when you let go of a grudge will demand a new degree of willpower. It is one thing to allow your newattitude to change the course of your relationship, but truly leaving the grudge behind means never allowing it to contaminate you again.
For example, if someone asks you how so-and-so is doing, you have to resist the urge to recount the whole sordid tale just for the purpose of putting a little stain on their name. This is an urge which, in the recent past, you may have jumped on at every opportunity.
In order to cash out this grudge, you have to honor and respect your intentions of dropping it all behind you and not letting it infect your thoughts, feelings or actions. It’s easier said than done, but necessary nonetheless.