I've spoken about forgiveness in a previous blog (read it here) but today I'd like to hone in on one particular aspect. Holding a grudge - the process of not letting go when someone upsets or angers you. The word comes from an old medieval word "grutch" which meant to complain or grumble. Very often holding a grudge means that you're looking for a way to retaliate or get revenge. Sometimes it means you are simply holding ill feelings towards a person (or situation). Ultimately though you are simply holding resentment.
We are all human so it is totally understandable that when someone has done us a wrong'un we react in a certain way. Some of us can let go quickly; others hold on to the resentment for a long time. But why do we do this?
From my experience the main reason people hold on to a grudge is because they are waiting for "justice" to be served. They are waiting for the perpetrator to get their comeuppance. They are waiting for the wrongs to be righted. Very often the grudge is exacerbated by the knowledge that the other person (the grudgee) is still seen to be making a success of things and probably more so! The trouble is that the more you hold on to it the worse it becomes and the harder it is to let go. The harder it it is to let go the more potential personal damage it can do. Your stomach will tie in knots that over time get tighter and tighter. You'll end up not sleeping at night. You'll get angry over little things. You'll start looking for fault. You'll find your hackles rising everytime their name is mentioned. Basically you become a right bloody mess!
So why is it that they continue to have success and grow? Simple...they aren't holding a grudge. They're just getting on with things. They're putting their energies in to moving forward. Very often a person isn't aware that they've even done anything wrong but if they are then they've developed a resilience to the bad stuff in life and just do what they what they want to do and as long as they get what they want it doesn't matter! In a way you have to admire these people because they know what they want and they are prepared to do what they perceive as necessary to get there; it's just unfortunate (to you) that their moral compass is a bit out of sorts while yours is true but you simply can't catch a break.
How then do we remedy this situation?
1. The Buddhists have a saying, "yasmiṃ puggale āghāto jāyetha, mettā tasmiṃ puggale bhāvetabbā. evaṃ tasmiṃ puggale āghāto paṭivinetabbo." This roughly translates as "If you find you have a grudge against a person developing a loving kindness to that person will help the grudge be removed." Love is the most powerful thing in the world so practising it will help a lot! The person who has done wrong is simply responding to the situation and conditions of their life; in other words it's all they know how to do. That doesn't make it right of course but if you don't forgive they'll hold on to you like a barnacle on the underside of a boat. The Dalai Lama could have every right to hold a grudge against the Chinese government for forcing him into exile but instead he does what he perceives to be the right thing and meditates on the situation and forgives them. Moving on and not letting it control him. Sure, he still makes the occasional comment about the Chinese government but it's never done maliciously or with any hint of anger.
2. Communication. Does the person know they've done wrong? Have you told them? No?? Well do so. How can you expect a person to make amends if they don't even know they've done wrong?! I can almost hear some of you saying - but they behaved abominably! How can they not know that their behaviour was unacceptable? Remember, everyone is different. Your moral compass is going to be different to theirs. Your standards are going to be different to theirs. Things you find acceptable or unacceptable are going to be different and so on. Don't judge people by your own standards...or better yet, don't judge.
3. If this is an ongoing thing and you find you're constantly forgiving the person for their bad behaviour but they soon go back into old habits then make the decision to move on. Let it go. Don't dwell on it. Clearly there is a clash of personalities there and it's never going to be right (it takes two to tango tango remember and if both parties aren't in synch, it's going to be a disaster!). Once you've moved on don't look back!
4. Rather than waiting for something bad to happen to them wait for something good to come to you! Karma (the process by which what goes around comes around) will play its role with perfect timing, but just be aware that wishing ill on another person (even if they've wronged you) is bad karma and the universe will respond accordingly - in other words, they'll continue to give them success and you a "hard time".
Simply put the sooner you can let go of a grudge the better. I find that daily meditation helps me with this as does EFT (more on these in future blogs).
In the mean time though look at the situation with fresh eyes and remember that the only person who is affected by your grudge is you!