Holding grudges only keeps you tethered to the past…
I used to be a master at holding grudges, and the worst part is that I didn’t see it as a negative characteristic. I thought that holding grudges made me strong, fierce, and a bad-ass. I didn’t see that hanging on to that kind of negativity was hurting myself more than it was hurting others. I was making myself into a toxic friend so that when the friendship blew up, the people I put into my own personal killing fields wouldn’t care that I was no longer in their life.
“You never forget a slight,” my friend said to me one day out of nowhere, showing me that even when I tried to hide it, everyone knew I carried my emotional-scoreboard with me wherever I went.
It was almost as if I was expecting people to hurt me, and the only way I saw of protecting myself was to be on the defensive and to have a heightened sensitivity when it came to my feelings of self-worth, it’s not surprising I took so many things personally.
If you were a stranger and you were rude to me, I made a mental note of it, and kept it at the back of my mind in case I ever encountered you again. If you were a friend or a family member and I thought your actions were hurtful, I might stop speaking to you and/or end our relationship without any warning.
I knew that my behavior wasn’t healthy, and at some point, I had to learn to let go of my grudges, forgive myself and others, and stop judging everyone for how they treated me. I had control over my own actions but not the actions of others, and it was foolish to try to punish the world over perceived transgressions.
I learned the power of not talking to someone from my mother for it’s her go-to way of dealing with a grievance. I thought it was less stressful than confrontation, but I was wrong. The longer you go not talking to someone, the easier it gets to never talk to them, and the harder it gets to discuss whatever problem you’re having. Refusing to speak to someone is an effective way to get them out of your life—it may take a while but when they’re gone; they’re gone for good.
When you cut someone out of your life there are repercussions that you can’t foresee such as losing friends, missing the person who you unfriended, or feeling as if you acted without considering the consequences of your decision.
I had a friend, Gabriel (not his real name) whom I met working at a retail store. We both loved music, T.V., film, and we both enjoyed performing and writing. The store that we worked at was having an anniversary party and asked me to put together a show to celebrate the event. I had directed shows in the past, had been a member of several sketch and comedy groups, and had done a fair amount of performing. I was confident that I knew what I was doing and that by having Gabriel in it, there’d wouldn’t be any nasty surprises.
From the start, Gabriel gave me attitude about everything that I directed him to do. During the performance of the show, he abandoned my direction and did his own thing which included taking out the lights and lighting himself with a flashlight. He may have thought that this was cool and arty, but he didn’t realized that it made the audience worried for him, didn’t go with the rest of the show, and came off as more of a skit you do at sleepaway camp than a well-rehearsed performance.
I was beyond upset and felt as if he not only had disrespected me but had betrayed our friendship as well. But I didn’t yell at him or express my feelings in a healthy way, I just stopped talking to him. After that, whenever I’d see him, I wouldn’t speak or if I did, I’d give short answers. I never smiled and glared at him whenever he came into my view.
Since my grudge was taking up all my energy, I had no empathy for Gabriel or why he had done what he did. My negativity was solely about me and how disrespected he had made me feel. All those years of friendship meant nothing now, he was in the killing fields of my friends and it was there that he’d remain.
But Gabriel wasn’t playing the same game I was. He started out slowly with hellos and overtime worked up to casual questions about bands or movies I liked. He made it difficult for me to be deliberately rude and when I was, my bad attitude made me look as if I was a horrible person.
One day, I had an epiphany—my grudge- holding against Gabriel and everyone else wasn’t hurting them, it was hurting me. All that pent-up rage was eating away at my self-esteem from the inside out, and it was causing my stress-levels to elevate to dangerous levels.
I promised myself that I would try to get rid of as many of my grudges as possible, and I have. I made peace with Gabriel and made amends to many of the people on my dead- to- me list. I forgave those people I felt had wronged me. This was one of the best things I’ve ever made. It got rid of so much negativity, and it made me feel lighter and happier.
I look forward to the time when I don’t have any animosity towards anyone but there are still a couple of people that I will have to do a lot of work on myself before I can forgive them, but at least now, I can see that happening someday.
Holding on to grudges is an unhealthy way to deal with relationship trauma. It’s so much better to talk things out and address your issues rather than passively aggressively not talking to someone and cutting them out of your life.