I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been wronged in some way. Whether it’s a nasty break-up, betrayal by a friend, or an old school bully, once we hold a grudge against them, it’s hard to let go. Letting go of grudges is good for our health, but it’s hard to do.
We say we’ve forgiven, but we don’t forget. Sometimes, a grudge can last a lifetime. It’s time to start letting go of the grudges we hold and start fresh with a healthier new outlook.
We hold grudges for a whole host of reasons. Psychologists have suggested that we use grudges to define ourselves and excuse our bad behavior. We write off our coldness, mistrust and sometimes plain rudeness, as the result of past hurt.
Some suggest that we are holding grudges as a subconscious way to get sympathy and extra kindness that we didn’t get initially. This is especially true with victims of school-aged bullies. At the time, there was little support for the hardship. As an adult, if we tell our stories, others will feel bad for us. We hold onto our grudges towards these bullies, so we can keep re-telling the story.
While those reasons might require more intensive thought, some other reasons can be more superficial. We might consider holding a grudge to be a form of revenge. Never letting go of the grudge means never letting the offender get away with their crimes.
The reality is, those who wronged you probably aren’t even aware of your reserved hostility, or even worse, they don’t care. Instead of holding onto this pain, perhaps it’s time to work on letting go of these grudges.
Why Letting Go of Grudges Is Crucial for Your Happiness
They Serve No Purpose
If psychologists are correct in their theories on holding grudges, then we can see that the reasons are never beneficial. Holding onto the anger or pain won’t help us to heal from the hurt. It won’t undo the damage done in the past.
Grudges won’t serve as a kind of revenge. Even if the offender is begging for forgiveness, there is no benefit to YOU by never letting go of the grudge.
They’re Bad for Your Health
A number of studies have shown that holding onto grudges can cause a serious decline in health. Having a grudge to carry with you means you’re repeatedly becoming angry every time the memory comes to your mind. We certainly all know by now that anger has a negative effect on our health. Constantly recurring anger is dangerous.
Anger, and in turn holding grudges, can lead to increases in heart rate and blood pressure. When we’re angered, our body’s stress response is triggered, leading to a whole host of unhealthy chemical reactions inside us. If you want to keep your body healthy and safe, you’d better start letting go of some grudges.
They Consume Us
Grudges are just pain that we carry with us everywhere. As well as the toll they take on our psychical body, they also have negative impacts on our mental health too. Negative thoughts take over from positive ones usually. They consume more of our time and fill our minds with a negative voice.
Overthinking the causes, possible solutions, and the revenge you crave will make it harder for your brain to function. Your usually clear thinking will be swallowed whole by the anger and frustration you let ruminate in your mind all day.
Not letting go of your grudges will lead to anger, mistrust, and resentment leaking out into your current life. Your personal relationships will suffer. Your career will suffer. Progression can only happen when you untie yourself from the past.
How to Start Letting Go of Grudges
Take Charge of Your Needs
Instead of letting the hurt swirl around your mind all day and night, try going after what you really need to solve this problem. Depending on the length of your grudge and the situation you’re in, talking it out might not be an option.
Instead, try talking to yourself. If you can’t get closure, then you have to close the door yourself. This might be easier said than done, but it is possible. Remind yourself of what you’re losing by being angry so often. Notice how little you’re gaining.
If you are in a position to talk to the person who hurt you, then do. Be confident in yourself and your needs. Sometimes, you need closure for your wellbeing.
Tell this person how hurt you were by what they did and explain that it’s still chipping away at you. If they respond in kind, open up a dialogue. If they don’t, know your pain and this person were never worth it. Let go of this grudge.
Embrace Your Mental Strength
You can’t change the past. You can’t make the person who hurt you feel guilty. You can, however, change your own thinking. It’s time to get in touch with your own thoughts and slow them down when you feel angry.
Remember that your brain was able to create this pain, so it’s able to let it go too. Letting go of grudges is entirely down to you. It’s not going to be easy but letting go can be a choice. You can choose not to hate, or feel anger, anymore.
When the frustrated thoughts occur to you, breathe them out. Remind yourself that this person has no power, only you do. No more letting this person win, especially if they’re already out of your life.
Distract yourself when these thoughts occur and forbid yourself from dwelling on them. No more obsessing, no more giving any of your precious time to this person who did you wrong.
See It from Their Side
It might be tough, even painful to do, but sometimes it can be helpful to put yourself in their shoes. Understand what happened in the beginning from a neutral point of view and wonder about how you would have reacted from their side.
Remember, we have all done wrong in our lives. We’ve all caused hurt in some way, it’s almost guaranteed. We are flawed, and that’s okay. Don’t place yourself on such a high pedestal that you can never forgive others’ mistakes.
It’s also important to understand that a person rarely has malicious intentions when they hurt us, they just acted thoughtlessly or inconsiderately towards our feelings. Rarely are our offenders genuinely evil. Their behavior may have been wrong but trying to connect with the reasons behind their actions might help you find solace.
Find the Root Cause
Most of the time, when we’re having trouble letting go of a grudge, there’s a deeper cause that we’re missing. This pain we carry tends to reflect a deep value that we hold that has been violated.
It can be beneficial to learn why this matter hurts you so much. Once you understand what fundamental moral of yours has been violated, you can start letting go of this grudge. Deep dive into why this moral is so important.
Most importantly, if you feel that something essential to you has been violated, then you know this person doesn’t belong in your life or mind. They don’t deserve your thoughts, because, in the end, their choices do not line up with your beliefs and values.
Letting go of grudges can be hard, but holding on is dangerous. Allow yourself to release the past. Be optimistic about your future, without bearing the weight of an ancient grudge. You’ll be surprised to see just how prosperous you can be when your mind is free from the torture that is on-going anger.
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