Grudges and me–the relationship is complicated.
Grudges and resentments will sap a person’s drive and energy. They do nothing to prolong and enhance life. We’ve heard and read about how harmful grudges and resentments are. Practically every wisdom tradition and science has mentioned this truism.
Perhaps you’re like me and have adopted this opinion about grudges. When we’re wronged, we make conscious efforts to forgive and learn what we can from the transgressions against us. Despite our best efforts, there remains some scrap of ill-will about the people who wronged us. Yet, even as we remember a past hurt, we understand that grudges are mental parasites that deplete us of our reserves of happiness. It’s difficult for us to feel unbounded joy, unconditional love, and trust while ill-feelings manifest themselves.
Most of us have experienced at least one major harmful act directed against us by a loved one or an adversary. Perhaps we later took the wise step of following the advice to “forgive and forget” that individual. However, the memory of the hurtful event crops up time and again, so we don’t really forget. We slip into victim-hood mode. We may even feel angry or regretful that we have allowed ourselves to feel anger about the person we’ve forgiven.
I posit that the forgive and forget then remember again cycle is normal. Everyone I know experiences this. This may happen because the issue remains unresolved. We know what we “should” do; we have made honest efforts to resolve it; yet memories of the wrong remain lodged in the mind.
When a emotion-laden memory pops into my head from out of nowhere, I unconsciously indulge it. When I gather my wits, I take a deep breath and re-forgive the person or persons who wronged me. I remind myself to let bygones be bygones. Some of the past’s worst offenders have received my forgiveness countless times. After all, I don’t want to waste my precious time and energy dwelling in the past. Logically, I know this. All I can do, is to do my best to follow through.
Perhaps it is unwise to completely forget certain major past wrongs. I don’t mean this in the sense that we should obsess about them and cultivate nasty resentments. Maybe we remember the events and the people who caused them as a protective mechanism. We learn to avoid that person and people who seem to be like that person in order to keep from getting harmed again. This is much like a child touching a hot stove and learning not to do it again.
Although it would be wonderful if every person on Earth could be full to the brim with peaceful thoughts and the intention to be kind, empathetic, and loving, the fact is, there are some very hurtful folks out there. After all, naiveté can get us into a world of trouble in a hurry. Even dogs and cats know from experience which humans to avoid. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for feeling this way about our adversaries–in my opinion.
I believe most people on Earth are really good people at heart and all of us make some major mistakes. The people who have inadvertently harmed me out of ignorance have been forgiven and their actions have largely been forgotten. It’s helpful to be strong in that way. Yet, there are still a few especially “negative” people who purposely plotted against me. I will probably always be wary of them. I don’t think this is abnormal at all.
As we reach the end of the year, it’s smart to reassess our resentments and grudges. What can we do to let go of them and move forward into the next year with more or less a clean slate?
People have bad things happen to them because of certain people. We can do our best to let go of grudges. Perhaps we can then also learn to let go of the grudges we hold against ourselves.
Good luck with all of that.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Elon Musk. “Life is too short for long-term grudges.”