PART TWO (of two)
Last time, we looked at what it is to have a grudge against somebody and why humans form feuds. Knowing how easily grudges are born, and how much mental energy they consume should will help with what comes next. You should also have a solid grasp on how to manage the anxieties of any friends or relatives caught in the middle of your feud. This is only going to get tougher, the longer your grudge is held. We need to talk about maintenance.
For the benefit of clarity this guide will assume you have followed all advice given in Part 1 . We will assume you have holding your grudge, and you have cut the person its against out of your life completely. We now need to talk about maintaining your grudge.
If you have followed closely, this person should now be as distant as a far off planet, and you’re no longer in their orbit, absorbing their toxic rubbish. That’s a good example of how you remind yourself why you started this in the first place. It sounds ruthless but you need to keep it in mind. Any time you feel yourself wavering, any time you feel perhaps now is the time to throw down the wall. After all, maybe they’ve suffered enough. But have they?Remind yourself why you took this course of action. Ocassionally speak aloud thoughts to yourself to reinforce the memory. Use words like ‘toxic’, ‘poison’, maybe even ‘evil’, if you should feel strongly enough. Obviously, it’d be wise to use less abrasive words in the company of the good people still caught between you (the rock) and your ex-associate (the hard place). On this subject this guide suggests delicate reminders, when in the company of others. Whenever the person’s name comes up, ensure you are seen to be looking as forlorn as you may feel. The middle people will be suffering to a degree too, but it would not harm your case for them to see how much the grudge pains you to maintain, how much angst it causes you.
You may feel the grudge is on its last legs, the will to maintain it slowly ebbing away. Unfortunately, the way in which the human brain behaves when threatened means grudges can’t simply be “switched off”. Fear, resentment and the desire to reach a specific goal all get different parts of the brain working simultaneously. After a while it simply becomes second nature but it’s still going to consume a lot of energy, and knowing this can only increase your feelings of resentment; there’s so many other things you could be thinking about. It’s time to let this guide unpick some of the conflicting emotions your grudge is causing you to feel, and help you navigate the sometimes difficult times ahead.
So, let us now assume your grudge has been in place for a minimum of one year. A lot may have happened since this grudge began. After all, time doesn’t stand still. People change, lives change. If you feel your grudge is truly justified, it must stand impervious to time. The only way your grudge can truly survive is wilful selective amnesia. You must forget the other person ever existed. Not only are they no longer part of your life, you’ve got to get out the cookie cutter and remove them from your personal history too. Like cutting the face of an ex out of a photograph, you must perform a similar operation upon your memory. It’s the only way to stop yourself reminiscing about the ‘good times’. It strengthens you, hardens you. It’s natural for you to find yourself thinking about the people caught in the middle, from time to time. Perhaps you might one day over hear them reminisce about the ‘good times’, the times when you could all sit and laugh in the same room together without your grudge to separate you. But if you follow this guide’s advice, you’ll barely flinch.
People learn to live with grudges, they become acceptant of them and just part and parcel of the relationship they have with you. Although it no doubt pains them, it sits in the background. Your friends or family, whoever may be in the middle, should by now routinely jump through hoops to ensure the two of you are not brought into contact.
Very few social relationships can continue like this indefinitely. Sooner or later, you may find yourself faced with an ultimatum – make up or split up. In other words, you have to choose between the grudge and your social circle. What do you do then?
You must ask yourself some questions. What did you want the result of the grudge to be? Is it worth sticking to when you stand to lose so much? Is there a way you can maintain the grudge beneath a facade of friendliness? Ah, the secret grudge. The kind of grudge that’s never spoken but is forever beneath the surface, bubbling under but never boiling over. Why should you? You were the one that was hurt. You were the one that had to endure the agony of maintaining the grudge, against all your natural instincts. At this point there are choices. You can end the grudge, with no malice or ill will, forgiveness without the merest hint of rancor. Or, you can do what we already discussed, and maintain a silent, private grudge. The other alternative? Insist the grudge holds and challenge those posing the ultimatum to do their worst. Chances are they’re decent people, and chances are you’re too much of a good egg for them to cut you out of their circle. After all, does what your doing really mitigate that? The point of the ultimatum (if you’ve followed my earlier advise) was to get you all back together, and if they cut you out of the circle for failing to drop the grudge, they still won’t get what they want. Stick to your guns, at all costs.
If your grudge has been going on for years, or decades, it’s even more important you hold firm. This thing has lasted the distance, it’s come further than even you thought was possible at the outset. It’s taken on a life of it’s own and then gradually allowed to blend into the background of everyone around you. They’ve stopped trying to change your mind, resigned themselves to the fact that talking about it is a waste of time. In short, everyone’s got on with their lives. You’ve got what you wanted, and your grudge is now everything you wanted it to be – it’s been acknowledged, and has earned a degree of immortality.
The misdemeanor that caused this thing to kick off is by now so far in the past they’ve probably forgotten about it. Forgot about it, and you too but you must be careful, because if the person you hold a grudge against should die with the grudge still in place, the focus of bad and unjust behavior is going to be on you. Basically, you’re going to look like the bad guy so, don’t falter. They were wrong. You are right. All they had to do was apologise. Don’t back down now because despite everything that stood in the way, you have continued on. The grudge has been borne and should remain until you both pass.
This isn’t the softie’s guide to bearing a grudge. This isn’t a snowflake’s hand book. This is how you really bear a grudge. And if other people can’t live with it – tough! It takes a strong backbone to remain this moral for this long. It isn’t something for your average namby, pamby, touchy-feely, psycho analytic. This is solid and unbreakable.
It’s in the genes, remember. This is your last line of defense against any encroaching feelings of guilt. The ability humans have to hold a grudge is ingrained, and we’re far from the only animals on the planet that feud with one another.
If you’ve been reading carefully, your grudge will last years, until the person you held it has passed away. But it’s not over yet.
It’s only right to attend the funeral and mourn. Over the years, whenever their name is mentioned, take the time to point out your disagreement “was never a grudge” . Vindictive? Sadistic? Not at all. You have now finally won the war.
But a war isn’t what you wanted, was it? What you wanted was validation, vindication of the wrongdoing that had been done against you. Was this ever truly about protecting yourself from future pain and hurt? Was this really about punishment for crimes against you? Or was this really just a way of holding up a sign to show everyone what a truly horrible person they were and to gain some small measure of sympathy to boost your own feelings of resentment? It doesn’t matter. You’re a total asshole, remember.
NEXT: Resent Resentment a poem specially written for the third part in this short series looking at grudges
Part One of the Asshole’s Guide… is available HERE
Copyright Martin Gregory 2019