Grudge.

Grudge. What a terribly ugly thing. In fact, what a terribly ugly word. Say it aloud. “Grudge.” It’s sounds so rough and heavy and uncomfortable. It’s a word that feels dark and guttural, almost as if doesn’t want to loosen up from the depths of us and be spat out of our mouths—like it’s a sticky, tar-like parasite that has adhered itself firmly as it spreads its toxins throughout its host. Grudge. Bletch.

I know so many people who have been infected by this ugliness—some so deeply, that I can scarcely see their true awesomeness through the seething animosity and contempt in which they clothe themselves. It’s sad, really. It’s tragic. I’ve seen the joy and beauty which once made them attractive and intriguing, but it’s hard to even look at some of them without now only seeing the anger and futility of the animosity that has consumed them.

Intrinsically, we know how destructive, disruptive and unproductive it is to live with bitterness (in fact, there are many scientific studies which prove that unresolved anger can lead to disease, shortened lifespan, and even death), yet we choose resentment. Me make ourselves unpleasant and unattractive to others with our ugly words and our stink-eye, yet we embrace enmity anyway.

One horrible side-effect of harboring a grudge is our desperate need for validation. We make it a mission to paint the offending party in the most negative way possible. We tell the same story over and over again of how they did us wrong, each time getting more bleak and full of more disastrously descriptive embellishments. We want others to be sympathetic to our bruised egos that we beat ourselves silly by making that bruise bigger and bigger.

I really dislike being around people like this. I dislike being a person like this. Sadly, I’ve held my share of ill-will toward a few people. A few of these grudges were founded solely upon misunderstandings (not much is as humbling as realizing that). I’ve had bitterness toward those who weren’t even aware of it. How stupid was that? Was I hurting them by being bitter? Hardly. I tied my insides into pretzel knots all by myself and it was only me who felt the pain of it all. It’s like trying to put out a fire by pouring kerosine all over ourselves and diving on top—it’s just stupid. Yet we do it.

“He did this to me—I’m going to make sure everyone knows it and I am going to take him down.” 

“She trespassed against me, and damn it all, I am going to beat her in the parking lot.” 

The ultimate antidote to this is to learn and extend forgiveness, and those aren’t always easy things to do. Our human nature is wrought with pride—we want to be right. This was a challenging lesson for me to learn, but once I did, my happiness improved greatly and I literally felt a lightness that I hadn’t known in a long time.

One of the best ways to inspire forgiveness is to frame our attitudes toward others with “I really don’t know.” You don’t know where people are in their lives—what brought them there or what’s keeping them there. Perhaps the thing that you have stuck in your craw is something of which they aren’t even aware. Perhaps their offense toward you was unintentional. Or perhaps it was in a moment of carelessness or anger that they offended you. Or, sadly, perhaps they really are just angry, bitter, hateful people. But pouring gas onto their flame is going to do nothing but exacerbate your hate. Harboring hatred is poisoning your own bay. And revenge, although it might seem deliciously rewarding and just, well, it simply isn’t. It speaks volumes about your character. We’d be destroyed if someone acted out malicious revenge upon us, so why would we ever entertain the idea of doing the same to them?

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean unicorns and rainbows and holding hands while running in slow motion through a field of flowers as cartoon birds sing with smiles on their beaks. In a perfect world, forgiveness would bring about restoration and repair broken relationships. Sometimes forgiveness is simply starving that ugly grudge, refusing any longer to feed that person to it. Forgiveness is freeing yourself from the negative bond that has you tied to that person, or that company, or that organization. Stop stewing in your antagonistic grievances. Let your brooding go. Move on, even if that means walking away or disassociating yourself. Stop airing your stinky grievances which only drive others away.

Say it aloud again. “Grudge.” Say it a few times. “Grudge.” “Grudge.” “Grudge.” Do you really want to live with that? “Peace.” “Peace.” “Peace.” Aaaaaaaah.

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