Monday, August 13, 2012

Begrudgingly De-Grudging: How to Let Go of a Grudge (Part 1)

Holding a grudge takes mental, emotional and physical energy. It makes you obsessive, angry, and depressed.

Some might say that forgiving and forgetting pays... but it won't be in nickels and dimes.


Three of the most beautiful words in any language are "I forgive you." Well, they are if you're a screwup like me anyway! But let's face it, it's not always easy to let go of past hurts and offenses, especially when the source is someone we care about.

A grudge can take on a life of its own, and endure for decades, even often outliving the original offender (no reference to the movie).

Considering the power of a grudge, is it any wonder that its anti-matter, forgiveness, is also very powerful (possibly even moreso)? So you can imagine why certain groups push forgiveness when the members are trying to regain control over their lives. The power gained from forgiving can lead to many other positive turns!

Forgiveness also has a spiritual quality, so many religions foster and encourage the process as well. There are more down-to-Earth reasons to put aside hard feelings though - solid, compelling reasons, including basic mental and physical health.

Too often we want to forgive, but something gets in the way. Eliminating the obstacles and achieving this empowering freedom, often requires more than minimal effort.

So I'm a screwup AND I'm lazy? ... For shame! No, no, no, it's totally natural to put a lot of pressure on yourself, which only compounds the stress related with holding a grudge. As you know, stress itself is bad enough for your well-being, but add on the anger you're feeling towards the other person... and now you've set the ball rolling on a whole spectrum of health miseries, including: chronic stomach maladies, heart problems, and even skin conditions!

Without question, the more anger we experience within, the more we wind up spewing out. This can lead to social complications on top of the internal problems. Apparently, the inability to let go of hurtful words or actions from one person, also makes it harder to trust or feel close to other people. Holding a grudge winds up infecting your family or prime social network, forcing everyone to choose sides and establish loyalties. These unhealthy activities breed secrets and spite instead of love and caring.


Forgiving is almost entirely an internal process. You could sit down with someone and say to their face "I forgive you for embarrassing me in front of the family..." or you can simply keep silent but start acting in a new way that is accepting... Either way, the real work involves you alone! Often, the first step is identifying and overcoming the fears, false beliefs, and misconceptions that make it difficult to forgive someone.
Some common false beliefs that prevent us from forgiving easily:
- If I forgive, I'll have to trust the other person, and I'm afraid I'll be hurt again. In reality, trust and forgiveness are very separate. To forgive is to free yourself from an uncomfortable emotion. You're just accepting the fact that the other person is a fallible human being, who must earn your trust.

- To forgive is a sign of weakness. In reality, the opposite is true. The forgiving person is strong enough to be assertive and able to express their feelings directly rather than lying or dissembling. This is a sign of character that most people truly respect.

- By forgiving I will be letting the offending party get away with something. In reality, the act of forgiving actually brings the wrong that was done to the forefront, and makes it clear that the deed was unacceptable in the future. You always have the option of choosing not to forgive, or becoming more aggressive yourself if the person repeat the offense repeatedly.

- I can't forgive until I forget In reality, you'll forget a wrong much faster when you've let go of the emotional charge attached to it. Forgetting is often the RESULT of forgiving.

- It's phony to act forgiving if I don't really feel it. In reality, we often empower ourselves to do uncomfortable things by a pure act of will, because we know those things are in our best interest. Go through the motions of forgiveness, and your emotions will catch up. Be it to believe it!

-- Part 2 Coming Soon! --

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