Still Holding On To That Grudge?
By: Beth McHugh 2006
It’s only human to feel resentful when somebody hurts us, particularly when they hurt us emotionally. Personal attacks bruise our self esteem, shatter our confidence, and cause profound disturbances which may leave deep wounds in our hearts. But holding onto that grudge actually has the potential to do more damage than the original event.
Once you begin to resent a person you actually become their slave. You create a living, albeit invisible, link between you and that person that will remain in place as long as you continue to think resentful and bitter thoughts towards them.
The interesting thing about a grudge is that it is usually a one-way street. It is the victim of the crime, the hurt one, who establishes the grudge and keeps it alive. This is a natural, human thing to do. The person feels hurt and wants to exact revenge, and a lot of thought energy is diverted to thinking about the perpetrator of the event.
Sarah’s best friend Jillian had an affair with Sarah’s partner. When Sarah found out she was understandably livid and the friendship ended. And so did the relationship that ended the friendship. But Sarah still focuses her hatred on Jillian, even though she only occasionally runs into her in the course of her work. Seven years down the track, Sarah cannot let go of this obsessional grudge she bears against Jillian.
Nobody could blame Sarah for being angry, hurt, and betrayed by her friend. However, as in most cases where resentment takes over, the only person who suffers is the victim of the original event. The resented one feels nothing. But not so the resenter.
The person who holds a grudge becomes a prisoner of their own feelings. Their sleep is disturbed, their digestion is affected, and their peace of mind is gone. Anything that reminds them of the person or the event will set off a cocktail of potent chemicals in the body that automatically increases heart rate and blood pressure, releases excess stomach acids, and increases muscle tension, just to name a few. The victim is actually re-victimizing themselves by holding onto the resentment.
What can be done to change the situation? As difficult and even unfair as it may seem, the only way the sufferer can experience peace again is to let go of the resentment. Sound unfair to let the person who hurt you off the hook? Actually, it is not them you are letting off the hook. It is you. For as long as you continue to resent this person, they will sap your joy for living and haunt your dreams at night. They will follow you wherever you go, because you have created a one-way link from you to them, a link that drains your energy yet doesn’t influence the life of the person you are devoting all your energies to.
For lasting peace and freedom from the burden of resentment, forgiveness is required. This can be very difficult to achieve, particularly in cases of horrendous crimes.
We will look at forgiveness and the many benefits of forgiving in coming