At one point or another everyone's held a grudge; often worn like a heavy armor that gets heavier everyday.
Grudges, as uncomfortable as they are to wear, are worn by countless people who may not realize that they are causing more damage to themselves than they are to their intended recipient. It's like wearing a too tight pair of pants that don't allow you full mobility, and every step you take reminds you that you have to shed that extra weight. In this case, the extra weight is anger and hostility.
When it comes to grudges, I'm certain you have a huge list from which to choose. Everyone does.
Maybe you're holding a grudge against the parents who neglected you. Or maybe it's the bully that tormented you in high school. Perhaps, it's your co-worker, or the "friend" who "unfriended" you. So many reasons, so many grudges.
You might be holding a grudge with the idea that it will protect you from future harm. The grudge serves as a reminder that you were wronged, and it becomes the fuel you need to not let it happen again. It protects you from becoming vulnerable. Maybe it works, for a while. Ultimately, however, the only collateral damage is you.
Holding a grudge, for some, is also used as a bargaining chip. For example, you're in a fight with your husband after he embarrassed you in front of his family by sharing a secret that you shared in confidence. You were so humiliated, you can't bring yourself to forgive him. Next time you get into a bickering war, you say, "How dare you say that to me? Especially after what you did to me!" Score!
You may be holding on to your grudge hoping for an apology from the person who hurt you. Unfortunately, you might be waiting for a long time, maybe forever. The other person may not think he/she did anything wrong, or worth apologizing for.
Maybe you're fishing for sympathy. "Can you believe Marc did that to me! It was so horrible!" Line out. "So sorry that happened. You must be so upset! Let's go have dinner; it's on me!" Sympathy hooked!
While you've convinced yourself that you have a great reason to hold onto that Beast of a grudge, you're not realizing that that Beast can have a caustic effect on your physical and psychological well-being. Feelings of anger and thoughts of revenge activate the "fight-or-flight" stress response of your sympathetic nervous system. That, in turn, causes your stress hormone cortisol levels to supersize.
So, yeah, staying angry, being revengeful, and entertaining grudges is bad for you. So what to do? There are several things that can help you let go of the Beast.
1) Acknowledge that you were hurt. It's important that you know what happened and why it affected you in the way it did. That knowledge can empower you and can be useful in the future.
2) Accept what happened. It did and you can't undo it, no matter how much you may want to. Remember, just because you accept that something happened, doesn't mean you agree with it. Accept "the flaws in others. Who's perfect? No one." (The Healing Alphabet, 26 Empowering Ways to Enrich Your Life.). Don't think that by letting the grudge go, you're OK with what transpired. You're just tying to keep yourself healthy. Both mind and body.
3) Don't be one of those people who's angry all the time. Is that how you want to be defined? As the angry white man? The angry bitch? The angry blah, blah, blah? Don't allow that. You're better than that.
4) Put yourself in the other person's shoes. In doing so, you might have a better understanding of why the person said or did whatever it was. Sometimes we are blinded to things outside of our belief system, even if we're wrong.
5) Release your victimhood. It's unattractive. Nobody likes a victim. Eventually, people will start to avoid you. Being a victim gets old really fast. It's a downer for most people to be around people who define themselves as victims.
As long as you hold a grudge, you are a prisoner. The other person has control over you. Imagine yourself handcuffed to the person who hurt you. I know, I know, that's not an image you'd like to entertain. Nor should you have to. But maybe that image will motivate you to let go. You can, you know. It is your choice. So reach for that key in your pocket. Unlock the handcuffs. Watch the person fade away, disappear into oblivion.
You are free! Doesn't that feel so much better?