Grudges begin with pain. Your pain. Someone has upset you, hurt you. As you see it, you didn’t deserve to be hurt or upset and it’s not even the first time this person’s caused you to feel this way.
You may have already tried talking and, for whatever reason, the person who has hurt you, slighted you has paid no attention. You know they are aware how their actions have made you feel, it can only mean that any hurt or upset you suffer from this point on is now entirely their wilful. Such blatant disregard for your relationship (whatever it may be, family, friends, acquaintances) must surely be proof they do not care. Can it be any wonder a grudge is born?
Humans have ‘the resentment’ gene hard-wired into our DNA. We’ve been embroiling ourselves in feuds since history began. The part of the brain that drives us to achieve goals kicks in and the desire to feel as if a wrong must be corrected causes several different disparate parts to interact. It takes a lot of brain power to be angry. Consequentially, feuds or grudges take up more than their fair share of energy.
But we’re not here today to examine the results of such fascinating studies, nor are we going to examine the psychological damage that can be done when somebody holds a grudge against us. It is all well-trodden ground.
Nobody ever looks at what it involves to hold a grudge, from the ‘grudge holder’s’ perspective, which is strange because we already know these feelings of resentment take up a lot of energy. Surely, if its so taxing, and feuds so common, there must be a strong reason why we as humans do it.
The sustained mental exertion may explain why many grudges are short-lived. Some have a short life-span because the other person may have climbed down. They may have acknowledged the unhappiness their actions have caused and resolved to change themselves. Grudge over.
Grudges can also fizzle out if the grudge-holder is the forgiving. It is difficult to bear a grudge because it’s not in your nature. Perhaps, because if you are person who knows their own emotional processes and coping mechanisns intimately, you may know, sooner or later, an organic feeling to forgive will take over. The result? Cave-in. If that is the case, this guide is here to help.
This guide will assume you are struggling to maintain a genuine grudge. It is true some people hold grudges merely to get attention or feed their own forms of neurosis, so, if you suspect you are in this category, this guide will not judge you or question your motives and encourage you to read on.
Grudges require a great deal of mental energy to maintain. It can even be all-consuming to some. If it is a constant preoccupation, there’s really only thing you can do to help yourself, and save some of that valuable brain power.
The answer is simple; you must cut the person, the source of your pain, out of your life. By doing this not only will the pain that caused the ‘grudge centers’ of the brain to de-activate, it is guaranteed to prevent the otherwise inevitability of premature – or worse – undeserved forgiveness.
Let us take a look at step one of bearing a grudge; Sever lines of communication.
This step is tricky. None of us exist in a bubble, so there will almost certainly be third parties caught between you and the person your grudge is against. This can be a difficult minefield to navigate. You don’t want those third parties to be ‘piggy in the middle’, feel caught in the crossfire or like they have to choose between you.
Unless there’s a very clear cut reason for the grudge, and there seldom is, you will almost certainly feel the need to explain to those caught in the middle why you have a right to be so angry. They may agree with you, in which case you’ve made your grudge spread through your social circle. Those in the middle may disagree with you, in which case your grudge has cost you, because now you have no support. Naturally, this increases that initial pain and therefore strengthens your side of the grudge. Most likely though, the people in between you and the person you’ve severed communication with, will refuse to take sides and resolve to let you ‘sort it out amongst yourselves’. This route of action hardly ever works and merely results in resentment from both parties. Those in the middle are appeasing both of you and in doing so, risk making themselves appear two-faced.
So, what does that mean about the grudge? You’ve caused angst among your circle of friends or family. Does that mean you take the high road? Forget your hurt and upset, and abandon the grudge? Of course not. This isn’t ‘The Doormat’s Guide to Bearing a Grudge’.
We must now move on to another pillar of your grudge; justice, because that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Remember, in this scenario wounds were inflicted. Lines were crossed and clear warnings signs ignored. Remember who victim. There is no court for things like this, no sentence that can be handed down and no definitive guide to the penance that should be paid. There can only be personal justice. One judge and one member of the jury.
In this scenario, you as the grudge holder will have no choice but set the punishment, and because you’re fair minded, you’ll ensure the punishment fits the crime.
Without resorting to something physical, your punishment can only really take one form. So, you there is little recourse other than to remove yourself from the other person’s life. They have proven themselves unworthy, unfit to know you any longer. But how long is the sentence?
The people in the middle will pose a serious threat to you and your grudge because sooner or later they’re going to try talking you ‘round. They’re going to try and appeal to your better nature and point out all the benefits of taking the high road. Perhaps those stuck in the middle are telling you the person your grudge is against doesn’t know they’ve done anything wrong. Perhaps they encourage you to notify them that there is indeed a grudge so they have the opportunity to make amends (as if there wasn’t plenty of opportunity to make amends before the grudge!). Remain firm. The grudge must stand.
It would be wholly unfair for this to backfire upon the grudge holder. If you find yourself in this situation you must clearly point out the destination taking the high road will ultimately lead. Explain it is a place that you have been before. A place where you feel hurt, angery, betrayed. You must be clear, there is no way back and the person who you are holding the grudge against must be the one who climbs down. Would having them crawl to you for forgiveness, forgiveness that only you can give be too much? Remain righteous, explain why the grudge is not only unavoidable, it is also necessary. After all, there’s a chance this person may learn a valuable lesson from the grudge, enough to scare them straight, enough to ensure they never again hurt you or anyone else in this way. In other words, the grudge isn’t just yours – it should be there’s too.
The third step in this guide is going to help you face and feel the reality of your marathon grudge.
There is no point sugar coating the reality. Rarely, will anyone else understand where you’re coming from, and you may find explanations are wearing thin. Why are you holding a grudge? Why let it go on for so long? Etcetera, etcetera.
Another reality; The longer the grudge exists, the more your tenuous grip on righteousness loosens. When this begins to happen, action should be taken.
The subject of the grudge, or the person it’s against must become a metaphorical ‘no fly zone’. They must become a conversational red card, a subject that is completely and totally off limits, to the point that even questioning the sanctity of the grudge is itself an infraction. The unwritten consequence of any such infractions should be veiled but clear; the next grudge may be against those who trespass.
So far, we’ve looked at what it is to have a grudge against somebody and why humans form feuds. We know how easily they are created, and how much mental energy they consume. By now, you should have a solid grasp on how to handle any friends or relatives caught in the middle. But, this is not the end of the journey. Handling those caught in the middle will only get more difficult as time goes on.
Next, this guide will help you navigate the later stages and provide advise on maintaining your grudge.
Copyright Martin Gregory 2019