Letting Go of a Grudge and Why You Should Do it Yesterday

BY:  Renee Skudra

All of the grudges I have had could fill a small room. There were the early childhood grudges, shored up into a reef of disappointments and woes. One childhood memory is of my mother, out of whose head leapt an idea to relocate from Toronto to Buffalo, New York for no good reason I could discern, resulting in leaving behind beloved relatives and friends. There were the ice skates I dearly coveted but didn’t get for many years later when my financially challenged family finally felt they could afford that luxury but never the ice skating lessons I hoped would accompany them. There was the first grade boy who hit me with a snowball, catapulting me into a two-foot high snowdrift, while his compatriots and he wailed with laughter. The grudges continued through middle and high school when boys passed me over for more popular girls and several Ivy League colleges rejected my application. A job promotion on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. went to someone else (who was related to my boss) and my grudge was doubly amplified with self-pity. There were family members who criticized my husband who felt he was too good to work a full-time job. Recently, my lawyer brother’s two attorney daughters married – one to a man, the other to a woman – and neither of my nieces invited me to their weddings. It took me a lifetime to figure out that unforgiveness steals life from our years and years from our life. I am SO DONE with grudges now, and I’m hoping you, dear reader, will make that decision, too.

Looking at the Mayo Clinic website last year was a life-changer for me. There was a lot of language there about the ill effects of holding a grudge – and how one’s life becomes so wrapped up in the wrong that you simply cannot enjoy the present. Concomitantly, there is the danger of bringing anger and bitterness into new relationships and experiences or foreseeably, becoming anxious, irritable and depressed. Under the impression of the grudge, many commonly seek revenge, cut the offending person out of their lives, lash out at them or demand an apology. I recall a close girlfriend smashing all the windows of her boyfriend’s car when he was at work – hours after he ended their relationship. He retaliated by throwing paint on her brand new Toyota. We all know these grudge and revenge stories. We are united in the feeling of wanting freedom from the anger, hurt and turmoil, and what we get instead is feeling miserable – as if a grudge could ever give us satisfaction. The truth is that forgiveness is a gritty choice that requires courage – it is not for the faint of heart. It is a complex process that ultimately liberates us and takes us out of a place of bitterness and regret.

One writer on the Mayo Clinic website said the following: “We need to acknowledge our emotions about the harm done to you, recognize how those emotions affect our behavior and work to release them. Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you. Release the control and power that the offending person and situation have had in your life.” Here’s the really big issue to keep in mind – getting another person to change is not the point of forgiveness. Honestly, how often has the person you have the grudge against changed anyhow? It is about focusing on what YOU can control in the here and now. Forgiveness does not require forgetting, nor does it require that we have to trust or reconcile with the person who wounded us so deeply. We don’t have to be happy about a situation when things end badly and our expectations are disappointed. But, abandoning the toxicity of carrying forward a grudge can finally bring you peace, happiness and emotional and spiritual healing. An American actress Mackenzie Phillips once remarked “forgiveness is not to give the other person peace. Forgiveness is for you. Take that opportunity.” According to the Mayo Clinic commentators, the benefits of forgiving include improved mental health, self-esteem, less anxiety, stress and hostility, lower blood pressure and improved heart health. The writer, Maya Angelou, averred, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” When our own need to win the grudge game is tossed away –  debts or behaviors that we feel are owed – we become the real winners by being truly set free. In my own life, I realized how much letting go of a grudge grew me a better heart. I sent both of my nieces wedding gifts anyway and wished them well. Take that grudge and shove it – it isn’t working here anymore.


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