Holding A Grudge
by Marie T. Russell
The dictionary defines a grudge as a feeling of resentment or rancor
(rancor being deep-seated ill-will). Usually the events for which we hold
grudges are long-time past, yet, deep in our heart is this little hard cold spot
where the memory of that event, accompanied with anger and resentment, lives on
as if it happened yesterday.
Nothing good can come out of holding a grudge. That dark negative energy
comes up at the strangest moments, sometimes unconsciously, affecting other
things in our lives. A striking example of this is the current fire raging in
Colorado. This fire was started by an action taken in anger… a woman was angry
after reading a letter from her estranged husband and set the letter on fire…
and now the fire is raging out of control and has destroyed everything in its
Isn't this how it is in our lives as well? Whether our anger is visible and
rages infernally like an out-of-control forest fire, or whether is smolders deep
within our heart affecting everything it touches, it is a situation that, if we
want to have inner peace, we must deal with.
Sometimes these grudges are very old… so old that we at times pretend to
ourselves that it's water under the bridge and old news… Yet, the subconscious
mind doesn't differentiate between the "old" angers and the long-held ones…
anger is anger is anger. Whether it is recent or not, it still creates a hard
cold place in your heart.
I'm going to tell you a story that I must admit I am embarrassed about… but
maybe my "coming clean" will help you acknowledge your own buried resentments…
I've carried a grudge for over 30 years, and through those years, the memory of
it often came up and re-ignited the feelings of hurt, resentment, and anger.
Thirty years ago my very best friend through school set her sights on my
boyfriend and decided that he'd be better off with her than with me… and
proceeded to try and "steal him" away from me.
From the moment that happened, I threw her out of my life… I never spoke to
her again and tried to act as if she did not and never had existed. For thirty
years I held that grudge. Mind you (in my defense), the fact that for 29 of
those 30 years we've lived anywhere from 300 to 2000 miles apart helped… yet in
my heart, no matter the distance, I held a grudge, feeling hurt, betrayed, and
angry. For those thirty years, any time I thought about her it was with anger
Then in the later part of those thirty years, as I started to work on my
personal growth, forgiveness was a topic that came up often. Well, I forgave a
lot of people in my life, but never her. The feeling of betrayal and rejection
was so firmly rooted, that I didn't want to forgive her… After all, she had
betrayed my love for her… I wasn't about to forgive her for that.
Then, as the years went on, I started to wonder why she had acted as she did…
Why does one turn away from a best friend and do something that one knows will
hurt them? The next step in my thought process was that if I knew why she'd done
it, then perhaps I'd be able to forgive her. So I proceeded to "track her down"…
After a series of phone calls, I got her phone number, but still didn't call.
Then one night as I was sitting quietly, it came to me that the reason I
needed to call her was not to find out "why she did it" so I could forgive her,
it was rather to ask her to forgive me for never having given her the chance to
explain herself. You see, when I found out she had gone out with my boyfriend
while I was out of town, I never spoke to her again… not even in anger. I
decided she did not exist -- I pretended she wasn't there. After all, such a
betrayal cut deep, so I cut a deep chasm between us that could not be crossed. I
never spoke to her again.
With the wisdom acquired in the 30 years hence, I now realize that I also
betrayed our friendship at that time… I could have given her the benefit of the
doubt and at least talked it over, and given her a chance to explain… I could
have honored our past friendship and seeked healing then. I could have "given
peace a chance". So I realized that my call to her was about my asking her to
forgive me, not the other way around. Rather a switch from my thought pattern of
the past thirty years, but, as I like to say "It takes two to tango". So, though
I hated to admit it, I also had a role to play in our estrangement. I had
reacted with anger and resentment, and not given her a chance to explain, and I
had not tried to resolve the matter.
Well, I did make that call, and after a bit of discomfort, we got through it.
We both asked the other for forgiveness. And we both realized that we each
needed to forgive our own selves for our actions and our feelings for the past
thirty years. It was like a weight had been taken off. What a feeling of freedom
to finally let go of that old resentment. We were both able to laugh at
ourselves for the fools we'd been. We then spent about an hour and a half on the
phone "catching up" and have since been communicating via email. I feel like I
have my best friend back… the one that I had as a child when her mother babysat
me while my mother taught school, the one I grew up with, the one I discovered
so many things with…
My main regret at this point is having "wasted" thirty years by holding on to
a grudge for an event, which in retrospect, seems childish. What I now realize
is that the feeling of resentment I carried around for years prevented me from
totally opening my heart and trusting others in my life… after all, if my best
friend had betrayed me, then anyone else could, right? So this one event colored
the rest of my life with feelings of mistrust and fear. This one event created a
door in my heart that never completely opened, because I didn't want to be hurt
again like that.
Thirty years is a long time to carry around a hard stone around your neck…
And it feels incredible when the rock is gone. But the rock must be released
through forgiveness -- forgiveness to yourself for holding on to it that long,
and to the other person who was simply doing what they felt they needed to do
(for whatever reasons, logical or not, loving or not).
We should all encourage each other to get rid of the grudges we've been
storing inside our heart and mind. They are not helping us in any way. After a
while, these grudges pile up and create a stone wall around our heart blocking
out love, joy, and true freedom. We sometimes think that love, joy and freedom
come to us from others, but rather they are generated from within us -- and the
dark resentments we hold on to are great barriers to our creating these
realities in our lives. Every grudge and resentment becomes a stumbling block on
our path, tripping us up when we least expect it.
Sometimes these long-held angers can ignite fires that burn the other people
we come into contact with. Sometimes they slowly poison our relationships. Most
of the time, they take the joy out of our lives by reminding us of our "right"
to be angry, to be resentful, to hate. Yet hatred, anger and resentment do not a
happy person make. I am reminded of the question: Would you rather be right or
Unfortunately, many of us have chosen to be right over being happy. We've
chosen hanging on to our grudges (after all we were right and "they" were wrong)
rather than forgive, let go, and move on. We must realize that the person we're
punishing with our rancor is not the "other one" (after all they may be 2000
miles away), we are the ones being hurt now -- after all we are right there
where the anger is residing and creating havoc. We are living in the midst of
the raging inferno, in the middle of the toxic dump, drowning in the poisoned
waters of our emotions. We are the one that is being hurt by the old grudges… We
are, and our children, and the people we live with and work with, and the people
we come into contact with. The resentments we carry color all our interactions
in one way of the other. Sometimes we become bitter, always angry, lashing out
at others for any small pretense. Other times, we camouflage our resentments and
they only pop up, we think, at stressful moments, or maybe we think they don't
affect us at all.
Yet, whether the cancer of resentment that resides within us is visible or
not, it has been creating havoc in our being. Melt it away with forgiveness --
first for yourself for carrying it around all those years, and then let the
other person go as well… Look at their action for the lesson it holds for you…
learn to be a more loving person from it… learn to be a better person than you
were at the time, or that the other person was -- if you're still insisting on
We can always get into "but I was right", yet does that bring peace to our
heart? We need to really ask ourselves a hard question: Would we be willing to
let go of this if it were a matter of life and death? Well, it is a matter of
life and death. The life of inner joy and inner peace cannot exist in a
minefield of grudges… So the choice is yours… You can deactivate the resentments
by letting them go, or you can go through life never knowing when you'll step on
a live mine that will blow up in your face, or in the face of your loved ones.
I've been asked "how does one let go?" In the same way you let go of
something you are holding. You simply open you hand and set it down. You make
the choice to let go of the grudges you've been holding on to. You choose to
open your heart and release them. Anytime those persons or the resentments come
to your consciousness, remind yourself that you've chosen to let those go, and
take a deep breath, let it out, and move on. You may have to do this over and
over again, until your subconscious "gets it", until it understands that you no
longer are choosing to feed the fires of resentments with "I was right and they
were wrong and they should be punished" attitudes.
When we let go of grudges, we feel better for it. More free, more joyful, and
more peaceful. We let go of a chain that we've had tied to our ankle for a long
time… We can then step through life with a much lighter attitude, one which
attracts many blessings our way.
RECOMMENDED BOOK: Radical Forgiveness by Colin C. Tipping.
Unlike other forms of forgiveness, radical forgiveness is easily achieved and
virtually immediate, enabling you to let go of being a victim, open your heart
and raise your vibration.
Info/Order this book.
T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner
Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem,
personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and
reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
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