Giving up "The Grudge": How to let grudges go

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When you hear of someone who held a grudge for years and resorted to destruction that impacted their friends and family you may ask yourself, who does that? The answer, unfortunately, is that many people hold deep grudges that last a lifetime. They’re unable to let go of the hurt and anger even if they are trying to forgive.


Why do people hold grudges even when they don’t want too? Why would anyone want to go through the pain of maintaining the grudge and keeping the wound open when it clearly limits their ability to feel joy and thrive?

A person who holds a grudge has an “identity.” This identity helps them feel sure about who they are. They take on the identity of someone who was wronged, and the grudge helps them feel a sense of righteousness. This righteousness helps them feel stronger or more certain of their purpose or identity. Letting go of the grudge won’t happen until they are ready to let go of their identity as the victimized or wronged one; this is difficult to do because of the personal power the grudge gives them. The person holding the grudge wants extra kindness and special treatment because of the trauma they went through.

Holding a grudge is a terrible choice because the person it hurts most is you. Grudges heighten your stress response, raising blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, skin problems, strokes, and heart disease. It also has mental health implications, including mood disorders, depression, anxiety, and the abandonment of those closest to you.

The only way to heal from holding a grudge is to practice forgiveness – not only forgiveness to the people who hurt you but of yourself. These steps can help guide you in self-forgiveness.

  1. Re-direct your attention. You have to change your focus of the wrongdoing, taking the focus OFF the people you believe are responsible for hurting you and shifting the story to you and what you suffered. You need to feel and grieve exactly what you felt and did after the event. Whether it was a parent wronged, a child or yourself, you need to experience the pain.
  2. Prepare for personal pain. Holding a grudge saves you from feeling the painful feelings you have to feel in order to get through healthy grieving. Find people in your circle of family and friends who can go through this with you and remind you of the importance of this step.   
  3. Seek out counseling. Walking through a past of wrongdoing makes you feel vulnerable and weak. Having someone guide you as you change your perspective can help you make peace with the past. Counseling also helps you understand why you chose to hold a grudge which helps you free yourself from pain in the past.

A grudge doesn’t disappear overnight, but the practice of self-forgiveness can begin today. When you practice self-forgiveness, others are able to come closer and show you the kindness and compassion you need to work through your pain.  Focusing all of your energy on the anger you hold towards someone who hurt you is a terrible waste of the precious, short time we have. –Mary Jo Rapini