Holding grudges is a very human thing to do, but it creates a number of problems for the individuals who hold them and for the people they are in relationship with.
As the quote someone sent me on Facebook states, “Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent free in your head.”
People often think they should keep holding onto grudges until they get an apology or some other kind of compensation. They think they will lose out if they let go.
But we don’t have the power to make others do what we think they should, so a positive outcome from “nursing” the grudge is unlikely. If these people need something they can’t get AND can’t let go, they are stuck. And these grudges persist, taking up space in mind and heart that could better be used for love, discovery, growth, and fun.
When held for long periods of time, the grudges tend to expand and people’s lives became smaller and more miserable. They can lose contact with friends and stop activities that previously brought them joy because the resentments block everything. Often they start to have physical symptoms as well.
When clients come to me for help with relationships clogged by resentments, we look together at this negative impact, and how letting go would benefit them. Then, if they are willing to go further, we begin to look at how they can change.
Here are some actions I’ve found helpful for those ready to take additional positive steps:
1) Be willing to change behavior and thinking toward that person instead of letting past experiences control present interactions. This takes practice and further awareness.
2) Examine your contribution to the problematic interactions and change it, regardless of whether the other person is willing to change. It “takes two to tango”, so when one person changes, the dynamic changes, even if the other person is exactly the same.
3) Ask what your own needs are and find ways to honor them and get them met. We all deserve to take our true needs seriously.
4) Since the person you are focused on may be unwilling or unable to meet those needs, explore alternative ways to get the need met.
5) Let go of expectations of the other, and instead send good thoughts, wishes, or prayers for the other person’s healing and wellbeing, even if you don’t mean it at first.
These simple yet powerful steps are not always easy to implement, even with support and guidance. However, in my experience the willingness and courage to walk this path leads to a saner, richer, and more satisfying life.