It’s the holiday season again! Instead of writing about how to decrease your shopping stress, I want to address another kind of stress – holding grudges. The holidays as well as the New Year are the perfect time to think about how grudges may affect your stress level and your life in general.
When I stop and think about it, a large percentage of my business is about helping people let go of past hurts. Some of the painful things my clients have experienced have been very damaging, and I can completely understand their reasoning regarding hanging on to negative feelings about the person or an event. However, the thought process used in grudge-holding doesn’t make sense. Consider one of my favorite quotes:
“Bitterness is a poison you drink hoping someone else will die.”
Read it again – it’s very powerful. It’s the perfect description of the power holding a grudge has over you. You are tying up your time, energy and negativity hoping someone else will suffer. The first step in letting go and moving forward is to understand your goal in holding the grudge. Here are some common reasons people develop grudges:
Distance – Many people need help staying away from hurtful people or things. Often they use anger/bitterness as a way to maintain the resolve they need to keep distance. Once you become healthier, you’ll realize that you can calmly decide to remove yourself from unhealthy situations/people – you can calmly say “no” instead of screaming it.
Reciprocal Pain – “You hurt me, so I’ll hurt you back.” The trouble is very often the person you’re angry at or holding the grudge against either doesn’t know you feel this way (because you’ve never told him/her), or (much more likely) doesn’t care. People who damage other people tend to be self-centered and lack a conscience. If they cared, they would have realized the damage they were causing in the first place, and they would have worked to repair it. You’re not hurting anyone but yourself.
Control – I’ve seen situations where the offender has tried to repair the relationship, but the victim refuses to allow this to happen. Now, there are some situations where it is best to disband the relationship (without anger/bitterness). However, staying angry at your mom because she wouldn’t co-sign for you on that new car, or refusing to forgive your friend a social discretion really serves no purpose. You’re just being immature – stop it!
So, you’ve decided this person or event is no longer worth your negative time and energy. How exactly do you move on? Here are some suggestions:
Think – Take a look at your thought process here. Basically you’re spending your precious time and energy on someone/something you don’t like. Haven’t they already taken enough from you? Why would you give them anything else – particularly your personal power?! The next time you see or think about the situation, insert some positive thoughts – “I learned a lot from that,” or “At least I know what doesn’t work for me,” or “I hope he/she is making better decisions.”
Talk – Process this with a trusted, healthy friend. Tell him what hurts you’re holding onto. He may view the person/event in a different way and may be able to give you some insight. She may be able to offer you some perspective and help you pull back to look at the big picture.
Spirituality – Take a look at this area of your life. Most people I’ve worked with in the area of bitterness have moved away from their spiritual center. When they re-join their spiritual self, they find the need for the anger dissipated. It’s harder to hate someone when you’re trying to “love one another.”
Future – It’s time to move forward. Holding on to the past is keeping you from being your best today and tomorrow. Remember the rule: if you can’t change it, spending time thinking about it is wasted time and energy. Focus on the areas of your life that you can change and that are deserving of your time and energy.
I encourage you to give this topic some thought. Bitterness has been a poison from time to time in my life. And boy did I drink it! I wanted that other person to suffer and fail miserably. When I realized that I was spending my precious time thinking about the other person instead of myself and my loved ones, I cringed. The suggestions in this column are the things that helped me get back on track. I’m confident they can help you too!