We begin a special three part look at what it is to hold a grudge against somebody. Starting with…
PART ONE (of two)
Grudges begin with pain. Your pain. Someone has upset you, hurt you. As you see it, you didn’t deserve to be hurt or upset and it’s not even the first time this person’s caused you to feel this way. You’ve probably tried talking and, for whatever reason, they’ve paid no attention. Now they know how their actions make you feel, it can only mean that any hurt or upset you suffer from this point on is now entirely their fault. Clearly, they don’t care and suddenly, you’ve got yourself grudge.
Humans have ‘the resentment’ gene hard-wired into our DNA. We’ve been embroiling ourselves in feuds since history began. The part of the brain that drives us to achieve goals kicks in and the desire to feel as if a wrong must be corrected causes several different parts to interact. It takes a lot of brain power to be angry, consequentially feuds or grudges take up more than their fair share. But we’re not here today to examine the results of such fascinating studies, nor are we going to examine the psychological damage that can be done when somebody holds a grudge against us. It’s all well trodden ground. Nobody ever looks at what it involves to hold a grudge, from the ‘grudge holder’s’ perspective, which is strange because we already know these feelings of resentment take up a lot of energy. Surely, if its so taxing, and feuds so common, there must be a strong reason why we as humans do it.
The sustained mental exertion may explain why many grudges are short lived. Some have a short life-span because the other person may well have climbed down, acknowledged your unhappiness and resolved to change themselves. Grudge over. Or, maybe you’re the forgiving type? You can’t bear a grudge because it’s not in your nature. Perhaps, because you know yourself too well and you know sooner or later that organic feeling to forgive will take over and you’ll cave in. If that’s the case, this guide is here to help.
If you are struggling to hold a grudge there’s really only thing you can do to help yourself, and perhaps save some of that valuable brain power too. The answer is simple; you must cut the person, the source of your pain, out of your life. By doing this you’ll not only avoid the pain that caused the ‘grudge centers’ of the brain to activate, you’ll also prevent the otherwise inevitability of premature, or worse, undeserved forgiveness. Step one of bearing a grudge – sever lines of communication.
The next step is tricky. None of us exist in a bubble, so there will almost certainly be third parties caught between you and the person your grudge is against, and this can be a difficult minefield to navigate. You don’t want them to be ‘piggy in the middle’, you don’t want them to feel caught in the crossfire, like they have to choose between you. Unless there’s a very clear cut reason for the grudge, and there seldom is, you will almost certainly feel the need to explain to those caught in the middle why you have a right to be so angry. They may agree with you, in which case you’ve made your grudge spread through your social circle. Perhaps the middle folk disagree with you, in which case your grudge has cost you, because now you have no support. Naturally, this increases that initial pain and therefore strengthens your side of the grudge. Most likely though, the people in between you and the person you’ve severed communication with, will refuse to take sides and resolve to let you ‘sort it out amongst yourselves’. This route of action hardly ever works and merely results in resentment from both parties, because those in the middle are appeasing both of you, making themselves appear two-faced. So what does that mean about the grudge? You’ve caused angst among your circle of friends or family. Does that mean you take the high road, forget your hurt and upset, and abandon the grudge? Of course not. This isn’t The Doormat’s Guide to Bearing a Grudge. No, let it ride and ride and ride, until the other person backs down.
Now, let’s talk about justice because that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Wounds were inflicted. There was a crime against you. You’re a victim, an injured party and all right is on your side. There’s no court for things like this, no sentence that can be handed down and no definitive guide to the penance that should be paid. It’s time for personal justice. You are the judge and the jury. You are the one who will set the punishment, and because you’re fair minded, you’ll ensure the punishment fits the crime. Without resorting to something physical, your punishment can only really take one form. So, you remove yourself from the other person’s life because they have proven themselves unworthy, unfit to know you any longer. But how long is the sentence? Maybe forever?
The people in the middle will pose a serious threat to you and your grudge because sooner or later they’re going to try talking you ‘round. They’re going to try and appeal to your better nature and point out all the benefits of taking the high road. Perhaps those stuck in the middle are telling you the person your grudge is against doesn’t know they’ve done anything wrong. Perhaps they encourage you to notify them that there is indeed a grudge so they have the opportunity to make amends, as if there wasn’t plenty of opportunity to make amends before the grudge. You remain firm. The grudge must stand, and if that is so, then it’s vitally important you do your best not to look like a total asshole. It’d be wholly unfair for this to backfire on you. You must clearly point out the destination that high road will ultimately lead, and explain it’s a place you’ve been to before. A place where you feel hurt, angery, betrayed. You must be clear, there is no way back and the other person must be the one who climbs down and comes crawling to you for the forgiveness that only you can give. Remain righteous, explain why the grudge is not only unavoidable, it is also necessary. After all, there’s a chance this person may learn a valuable lesson from the grudge, enough to scare them straight, enough to ensure they never again hurt you or anyone else in this way. In other words, the grudge isn’t just yours – it should be there’s too.
There is no point sugar coating the reality. Rarely, will else understand where you’re coming from, and you may find explanations are wearing thin. And the longer the grudge exists, the more your tenuous grip on righteousness loosens. When this begins to happen, action should be taken. The subject of the grudge, or the person it’s against must become a metaphorical ‘no fly zone’. It must become a conversational red card, a subject that is completely and totally off limits, to the point that even questioning the sanctity of the grudge is itself an infraction. The unwritten consequence of any such infractions should be veiled but clear; the next grudge may be against those trespassers.
So far, we’ve looked at what it is to have a grudge against somebody and why humans form feuds. We know how easily they are created, and how much mental energy they consume. By now, you should have a solid grasp on how to handle any friends or relatives caught in the middle. But, this is not the end of the journey. Handling those caught in the middle will only get more difficult as time goes on.
Next, this guide will help you navigate the later stages and provide advise on maintaining your grudge.
Check back here on Saturday 4th of May for part two of the Total Asshole’s Guide to…Holding a Grudge.