The cost of holding a grudge and how to set yourself free!
There was a time in my life when an ex-boyfriend really hurt me. I was wounded emotionally and had a very hard time letting it go. I was so angry and extremely bitter for a long time. A friend of mine had noticed how these negative feelings were affecting me. One night, he told me something that stuck with me to this day: “Forgiveness isn’t for him, it is for you”. I was carrying the weight of a grudge and it was really dragging me down. He explained to me that forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for us. It allows us to let go of that negative energy and start our subsequent relationships with a clean slate and an open heart.
After that experience and a lot of reflection, my mindset changed. I don’t believe in holding grudges anymore. Especially when it comes to my family. I am afraid that if I hold a grudge and stop talking to a loved one because of an argument, something will happen to them. Then I wouldn’t have a chance to rebuild our relationship. “Life is too short” as the old cliche says, and we never know when it will be the last time we speak to someone.
Holding a grudge weighs us down emotionally. It affects our mental and physical health, and burdens our lives in ways we are too stubborn to notice.
Many people hold grudges, and some last a lifetime. When someone holds on to these negative feelings, they are becoming more bitter as time goes on. Chances are, they will develop many grudges in their lifetime, which wouldn’t be a particularly happy way to live. The stereotype of the bitter old man/woman? That archetype presumably originated from someone who held many grudges, for several years. The root of a grudge seems to be emotional pain, and we respond to this pain by being stubborn and cutting that person out of our lives. Stubbornness is not a good trait. We think by being stubborn, we are standing up for ourselves, when in fact, we are causing more harm to ourselves than good.
“ Grudges play an interesting role in our psyches. Sometimes we can’t let go of our hurt feelings even though we want to, and other times we’re just not ready to let go. Either way, holding onto a grudge feels like a mental consolation prize — you were wronged so now you get a grudge.”¹
There are also physical implications when you hold bitter feelings inside. A study conducted was by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. This study found that bitter people are more likely to die from heart disease than forgiving people are. Apparently, when we experience negative feelings, the C-reactive protein in your blood can elevate. This can cause heart disease.¹ Holding a grudge can literally hurt your heart!
Another study conducted in Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh Napier University, in Scotland, found that holding a grudge can actually intensify physical pain! Therefore, if your lower back is aching or you’re feeling symptoms of Arthritis, you could be making your pain worse by holding a grudge.²
Forgiving people improves your state of mind and encourages inner peace. It also aids you to become a healthier person.
When someone we love has hurt us, we demand to be heard. We want that person to acknowledge that they have wronged us. We feel victimized and holding a grudge is our way of giving ourselves comfort in this difficult time. We feel we are protecting ourselves from future pain by avoiding that person and holding in our bitter feelings. These feelings build up inside of us and can even alienate the people around us. We are losing the chance to gain the empathy we deserve. It’s almost a form of self-sabotage.
If we are honest with ourselves, does this really make us feel better? The answer is no.
So how do we let go of these feelings? The only way is to look within our hearts and take the attention off of the person who wronged us. Basically, you make this person’s indiscretions into a narrative story. This removes the power that the grudge and this person has over you. This turns the grudge into something that has happened to you and transforms it into a part of your life story that will make you a stronger person.
Letting go of a grudge and giving yourself the gift of forgiveness can benefit you in many ways. This action allows you to live in the present and realize what is really important. You will be radiating positivity instead of negativity.
When you forgive a person for yourself, you are not absolving them of responsibility, you are setting yourself free.
Nancy Collier (March 4, 2015) How Holding Grudges Can Shorten Your Life
Len Carter (March 27, 2019)Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad for Your Health