About two months ago, I was talking with an old friend over drinks. He and I have been friends for 8 years so you could say he knows me fairly well. Our conversations usually take a turn for the deep so we tend to move through topics such as friends, jobs, ex’s, and disappointments pretty easily. He’s also one of those people who always seems like they have their ish together. You know those people, right? Regardless of whether they actually do or not, all their stupidly perfect ducks always seem lined up, completely parallel, while your ducks are over there acting like children, swimming in circles, some flipped over, unable to get themselves right-side-up. I have a whole lot of admiration for those people, drool pools in envy actually, like let me wipe up all this drool and then please teach me your ways. Please.
What I’m getting at with all this old friend duck talk is that I put weight in things that he says, maybe not all of the things he says, but some. So over his jack & coke and my vodka & sprite (I’m a light liquor girl), he said to me, “Andreanna, you hold grudges so badly.” I glared at him over the rim of my glass, took a sip, and then snapped, “I do not! I just take a long time to process and get over things! It’s how I heal.” to which he replied, “That’s the definition of a grudge!”
We then both began rambling off names of people, him of those I was holding grudges against and me of those I had forgiven. I don’t know if you do this, but when someone insults me my mind goes into “protect this house” mode where I literally search for and cling to any information I can find to defend myself from the insult. To be quite honest, I was two drinks towards tipsy so getting into a heated debate defending myself was completely out of the question, so finally I took the insult as gracefully as I know how and tried to be funny, “Well, I’m a stubborn Italian! That’s what we do!” (not my best work), but I was thinking no-freaking-way. You know, straight denial. What else? I just take a long time to heal. That’s all. And taking a long time to heal is not a grudge. Healing comes in many forms and sizes and I can take as long as I want to heal. That’s not a grudge. Basically, my mind threw itself a little tantrum because grudges are bad and healing is good and no friend of mine was going to tell me that my drawn out recoveries were ugly grudges.
Days later though, he still had me thinking, as good friends usually do, what if I do hold grudges? What if all these years I’ve been “healing”, but really I’ve just been holding on to the angry and the bitter. What if all this time of “healing” I have just been denying myself peace and denying others forgiveness? Even worse, I am so quick to accept my own character flaws, but can’t accept anyone else’s? I jumped at any information I could to excuse my grudge holding tendencies; I’m Italian…yeah, that’s why I’ll never forgive you and will call it a never ending healing process. That’s what we Italians do; we eat pasta, talk with our hands, and hold on to the bitter leftovers of any and every relational altercation till the end of time.
…I’m sorry, Andreanna. What??
As much as I hate to admit it, my friend was right. If healing and getting over things means not forgiving, then taking a long time to do so is a grudge. A grudge that I have dressed up and paraded around as “healing”, which is a complete disservice to the actual process of healing.
SO one day I busted out my journal and started doing some inventory. Some inventory on my grudges. At the end, I had two piles: all the grudges of the past in one and all of the grudges I was still tending to in the other. The only difference between the two lists was that the names in the one list were no longer on my mind or my lips. The list of past grudges was a list of names who hurt me, truly and deeply, at some point years ago, but I no longer think or talk about that pain. The grudges that were still present were pains that I was still wrestling with, still talking about, still thinking about, and still unwilling to give forgiveness for. The thing is though, eventually all of the “current grudges” will be moved to the “past grudges” list. I will one day forget about what they did, as I had with the names I listed on the past list. I will eventually forget the pain and in turn, forgive the wrong. And while those past grudges are proof that I do in fact forgive, why does it have to take me so long to get there?
“To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”
If I can so quickly accept that I am stubborn, why can’t I quickly accept that someone else is indecisive or lustful or jealous?
We make excuses every day for our own character flaws (physical flaws are a totally different ballgame that doesn’t seem to involve speedy self-acceptance for anyone, but I digress) while we are unable to forgive a friend or ex-significant other for theirs. We are all only human. We don’t always know what we want, or what to say, or how to handle certain situations. We make mistakes. We make decisions for ourselves. We are lustful, self-interested, jealous, indecisive, short-tempered, and frustrating beings. And on top of all of our flaws, we are all carrying something. We carry guilt, regret, insecurities, grudges. We carry baggage. And all the baggage that we choose to carry affects how we treat people, how we interact and communicate with people, and ultimately how we love people.
Let’s be real; a grudge is an act of self-harm. Carrying around resentment towards someone for their flaws or mistakes or baggage doesn’t give you anything and doesn’t take anything from them. All it is doing is damaging you and weighing you down. I don’t think I was designed to hate. I feel called strongly to love, as I’m sure you do too. Nothing about holding on to hate feels good. It feels sour and stiff and prickly and sitting with it, sitting with a lap full of grudges doesn’t feel good. Even more so, it’s incredibly egotistical to think so highly of ourselves that we can never forgive, but demand forgiveness from others for our mistakes.
But it’s not easy. Forgiveness that is. Even with knowing all of this. Even with knowing that grudges are self-harm and that it is damaging your growth, we still struggle to forgive. Sure it feels better to forgive than to hold on tightly to pain and anger, but it’s hard to let go. We are often self-centered and we are focused so much on the damage done to us that we cannot imagine what the other person must be going through or why they did this to us. And while we often do not get answers to those questions we can still practice being empathetic. We can extend empathy to those that hurt us by removing ourselves and our pain from the center of the situation. By removing ourselves, we allow ourselves to see from the others point and maybe consider that them hurting us wasn’t about us at all. It was about them. And if it was never about us, to begin with, why are we hurt?
So I challenge you (actually I’m challenging myself, but would freaking love it if I didn’t have to do it alone) to give forgiveness to whoever you are holding a grudge against. Give them forgiveness and leave it be. Let your mind leave it be. Stop torturing yourself with thinking about the situation and harboring bitterness towards that person. And don’t worry, you don’t need an apology in order to forgive. You don’t have to call them up or write them or plan to meet to have a long conversation about their wrongs and the apology you want and the forgiveness you are gifting them. Just gift it to them. Hell, gift it to yourself. Forgiveness can be completely one-sided, you don’t need the other person’s participation.
“Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on.”
― Criss Jami,
We get to decide what we carry with us. You don’t have to carry heavy, angry, bitter weight with you into your next season of life. The hurt done to you doesn’t have to stain every part of your life thereafter. Give yourself and others forgiveness so you can free up space in your mind and in your heart.
Also, if you have a friend or friends that call you out on your shit, make you better, and help you grow, keep them. They’re the good ones.
Love & light always,