Is it Okay to Hold a Grudge?

"Grudges" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward


I've learned that carrying a grudge is a waste of time. It robs me of happiness and peace of mind. My family and I were treated very badly by a Christian leader. After many years of anger, resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge passed while waiting for him to repair the damage, I realized it was totally up to me. When he died, he left no apology that came close to the level of devastation caused. I then realized it was totally up to me. Am I going to hold a grudge, and like this man in the picture be weighted down for the rest of my life? Or am I going to release the grudge, heal myself, and carry on with my life? The Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Jesus is also famous for promoting forgiveness and letting go of anger. Any therapist would say the same thing. In other words, letting go of grudges is nothing new. I am not saying that my perpetrators need not make amends. This is about my own personal response. How am I going to proceed? How am I going to get on with my life? Because the chances are my perpetrators, even if they do apologize, may never grasp the full dimensions of their violations against me. Also, unfortunately, many religious people see this teaching of forgiveness as a license to harm others. It can create an unhealthy environment for abuse. I can hurt you because I know you have to forgive me. Again, this is not what I'm addressing here. I'm talking about how we can immediately step in the direction of moving on from our hurt and anger to peace of mind and happiness again. This also doesn't mean you must reconcile with your perpetrator and make things right and be all cozy again. Reconciliation doesn't have to mean relationship. I'm talking about your own ability to heal yourself and move on. This has nothing to do with your perpetrator. It also doesn't mean you shouldn't give yourself time to feel your pain, then grieve the suffering it caused. How much time you take to do this is up to you. So, in my experience, I can hold on to a grudge. I have! But I've also discovered that it's not necessarily my best way forward. You can heal yourself. You can let the grudge go. I think you will be and feel better for it. (Do you want to meet other people learning to let go of grudges? Check out our online community The Lasting Supper. Or talk with me if you prefer one-on-one.)
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