The Shackles of Grudge-holding
Grudges are very intriguing to me, they really are. I think I find them fascinating because they are truly contradictory and counterproductive in terms of what is trying to be achieved by the grudge-holder. People who hold grudges generally believe they are taking control over someone else’s life in some way, but they are actually losing control of their own life in many ways. It’s hard to recognize that reality in the midst of anger and frustration, but that’s exactly what is taking place. I’ll touch upon that point more in a minute.
If you’re anything like me, then you have surely seen the negative effects that grudge-holding can have on others, and perhaps you battle the tendency to hold grudges yourself. I have personally witnessed some ruthless quarrels that have been quite relentless in nature, both within my own family as well as among some friends and acquaintances. They are painful to observe from a distance, and even more painful to be a part of directly.
In one instance, I recently reconnected with an acquaintance from high school who I haven’t spoken to in nearly 20 years. Though we lost contact (aside from being loosely connected on social media), he is someone I have always respected and held in high regard. In the course of our dialog, he informed me that he and his sibling (who I knew very well back in high school, and who I have also lost contact with) haven’t spoken at all in about 10 years. The reason: a dispute over religion. His sibling will no longer speak with him (despite his attempts, apparently) because they have differing religious convictions and previously expressed those opposing points of view openly to each other. I’ve found myself in that exact same situation before as well, where someone has stopped associating with me due to my religious beliefs. The question must be asked, is that behavior really appropriate or reasonable or beneficial in any way? On the surface, such behavior just seems very juvenile and ungodly to me. I do not know all of the details surrounding the aforementioned sibling fued, so I will try to avoid any further judgement (as it is not my place to judge in that matter anyway). But I do hope that hearts can be softened and that they can ultimately make amends and reunite.
That news saddened me, not only because a great divide has come between those two siblings, but also because it is an all too familiar scenario that I have witnessed far too often in my own life. Whether the root of the conflict is tied to religion, politics, finances, sexuality, mustache grooming, or whatever else… I’m here to tell you that it honestly does not matter, and grudges are not the solution. The perceived gains in disputing a point of contention are not worth all that can be, and will be, lost. The resulting rifts are fruitless and traumatic, and they ALWAYS do more harm than good. Is it really worth severing family ties (or friendships) and creating a seemingly impenetrable barrier of communication due to a difference in conviction or opinion? The answer to that question is very, very simple. Of course it’s not worth it. Family and friendships are, and ever will be, far too precious for petty disputes to lead to the demise of meaningful relationships.
Let’s look at it this way. If I held a grudge against anyone and everyone who I’ve ever disagreed with about something, then I surely wouldn’t have any friends left at all. It would be very lonely life for me, indeed. No one holds a grudge against EVERYONE they know in life (despite disagreeing in one way or another with ALL of them), so what makes people hold a grudge against one individual for that same reason? Disagreements are a natural part of life that stem from the diversity of mankind. We are all unique individuals with different life experiences. It’s plain to see that we’re not always going to be on the same page with each other, and that’s okay. Sometimes we just have to be willing to agree to disagree and move on. Otherwise disagreements will lead to grudges, which will lead to self-induced distance from others, which will ultimately lead to isolation and loneliness.
Of course, it’s important to note that not all grudges stem from disagreements. The “reasons” for grudges vary greatly. They can include perceived wrongs that other people have done to you (e.g. someone stole from you, someone physically harmed you, someone didn’t invite you to that one party, someone looked at you the wrong way with squinted eyes when you unknowingly had the sun behind you, someone reportedly said a mean-spirited comment about you like 13 years ago, etc). The reasons for grudges can also be linked to things that other people have done to people you know and love, where you decide to take personal exception for whatever happened to someone else. The list of causes and explanations and justifications for grudges could go on and on. It seems that some people get offended by anything and everything these days (it’s truly ridiculous). But if any offense leads someone to hold a bitter, long-lasting grudge, then that individual is going to suffer needlessly for something they absolutely cannot control: the actions of others. What good does it really do for us to put ourselves at the mercy of someone else’s actions?
Grudges really are bouts of self-imposed torment when you think about it. When you make a conscious decision to hold grudges against others, those grudges lead you down a tortuous pathway to inner turmoil and decadence. They eat away at you and cause your soul to become dark and frigid. Grudges generally cause you to complain more, and that consequently results in other people not wanting to be around you as much. Thus, loneliness and isolation ensue and misery settles in. It’s a sure path to self-destruction, but you have the ability to choose whether you will walk down that path or avoid it like the plague.
As I mentioned previously, when we hold grudges and fail to forgive others we surrender some degree of control over our own lives. We give someone else extensive control over our emotions and our overall state of mind. We become bound and shackled to the negativity, and our lack of forgiveness creates a damn that blocks the waterway of our own personal progression (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). An unnecessary burden is created by our choice to become offended and hold a grudge; and it’s a self-inflicted weight and burden that cannot and will not be released until we right the wrong.
The good news is that we do have a say in the matter. Grudges and negativity are completely avoidable by choice. The powerful key to release ourselves from the shackles of grudge-holding is… wait for it… you guessed it… forgiveness. Forgiveness is such a simple concept, yet such a difficult principle for many people to actually apply to their own lives. I think forgiveness is difficult for some people because it often seems unfair. We are often asked (or expected) to forgive someone who may not have even apologized to us, or who may not have shown any remorse for the wrongs they’ve done. I can think of no better quote to sum up the remedy for this dilemma than these words expressed by Jeffrey R. Holland: “Please don’t ask if it is fair. . . . When it comes to our own sins, we don’t ask for justice. What we plead for is mercy—and that is what we must be willing to give. Can we see the tragic irony of not granting to others what we need so badly ourselves?”
I’m going to get biblical for a moment, and I offer no apologies for doing so. Whether you regard the bible as a sacred and inspired revelatory work (as I do), or whether you see the bible as a work of literary fiction, there are powerful lessons to be learned from the central character in that religious canon. Yes, I am speaking of Jesus Christ, my personal hero and guiding light. I would like to use events from His life to serve as an example. Prior to His death, Jesus Christ was, among other things: wrongfully accused, unjustifiably sentenced to death, verbally chastised, spat upon, stripped of His clothes, whipped violently, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, and mocked relentlessly. He suffered more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death. There is nothing fair about any of those details. Yet, as He hung on the cross in agony, Jesus (the Great Exemplar and Master Teacher) had something very important to say. In the book of Luke 23:34, we read: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” That is a remarkable response to the greatest of offenses.
We cannot possibly comprehend the torment that Jesus Christ went through as he concluded his mortal ministry. However, on a much smaller scale, we all know how it feels to be blamed, criticized, accused, lied to, physically harmed, and/or verbally offended. We all know how difficult it can be to forgive others, especially when the offenders are unapologetic and when there appears to be no impending consequences for their actions. In these instances, may we ever turn to the example of Jesus Christ, and strive to be like Him. May we also be able to say in these moments, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. I am forever grateful for my Savior (and my hero), Jesus Christ, and for His flawless example of forgiveness and mercy. I realize that some of my readers are not believers in Jesus Christ (and some are not religious at all for that matter). But if you are a Christian, a follower of Him who commanded us all to love and forgive one another, then it is worth noting and remembering that holding a grudge is one of the most un-Christlike things you can do.
Although grudge-holding is not one of the biggest shortcomings that I personally face in my own life, I clearly see the dangers associated with such behavior. I see it all around me, and I am surely not immune to it. To be honest, it’s a bit disturbing to see how subtly it can creep into your life if you let your guard down. Just a few weeks ago I got into a small verbal altercation with a guy I was playing basketball against (which is very unlike me). Truth be told, he’s one of the most annoying and obnoxious guys I’ve ever dealt with on the court. He just rubs me the wrong way, and some of the things he said (and the way he said them) got under my skin a bit that night. The brief tension was palpable, and we were both responsible for the negative vibes produced.
The next week when I saw him on the court again I gave him the cold shoulder and didn’t speak a word to him. Instead, I intentionally elected to guard him with the newly developed chip on my shoulder. I frankly wanted to embarrass him on the court, and I put forth full effort to make sure that I came out on top in that matchup. It just so happens that I hit a game-winning shot right in his face. That should have made me feel better, right? Not so much. The satisfaction from that personal victory was very temporary, and I quickly realized that my anger and frustration with that dude had not subsided at all. That release only came two weeks after the altercation when I saw him again on the court and elected to speak with him in a friendly manner, as if nothing had ever happened. All forgiven, all forgotten, we both moved on. That was the more satisfying feeling, by far.
I also recently caught myself holding a grudge against a few other individuals. The reason: because they were holding a grudge against someone I care deeply about. How ironic and hypocritical is that? I clearly realized they were wrong for holding a grudge against someone, and yet I still chose to fall into that exact same trap. Those negative feelings took over my emotions for nearly a month. Thankfully I was able to recognize my misstep and remove myself from that dark path of grudge-holding. I’m so glad that I did. I could feel the weighted shackles removed. And that is my plea and promise to everyone. Be forgiving, make a choice to end your grudges right now, and you will feel a heavy, negative burden removed from your life. Grudges are cruel and shallow, and they will ruin your life… if you let them. So let it go. Just let it all go. It’s not too late (until it is).
Note to Self: You cannot control what others say and do, but you can control how you choose to respond to those words and actions. Choose wisely. Take the high road and let positivity prevail.
Proactively Me Challenge # 7 | The Forgiveness Challenge:
If you are currently holding a grudge against anyone, make a conscious decision to forgive them immediately, and reach out to those individuals within the next two weeks in an attempt to make amends with them.