“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die…”
We all have grudges. We have all been hurt; whether it was unpleasant teasing back in the school yard, colleagues saying unkind things behind our backs, or our in-laws making comments which leave us riled up.
We have all been wronged to some extent – it’s part of life – and anger is an understandable reaction, especially if we have felt victimised and unable to protect ourselves.
But while holding on to resentment can seem like a normal thing to do, even a helpful form of self-defence to prevent the same thing happening again, the truth is doing so will end up hurting you in the long run, and quite likely even more deeply than before.
One of the hurdles is the fact that we confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. The two are related, but distinct. The former requires just you in the process, whereas the latter requires both parties.
We can think that if we forgive someone, that means we condone what they have done – but this is not the case. Forgiveness just means that we can let go and move on with our lives. We don’t have to forget, or abandon any lessons to be learned – but we can leave behind the bitterness.
Certain hormones get released when we are stewing in anger, and remaining in that state is inflammatory; over time it can actually impact our own levels of health, wellbeing and happiness.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t get angry. We are emotional beings and our anger is there for a reason; it can often highlight something which needs to be addressed. But, if we are immersed in that emotion, or it’s playing in the background 24/7, then it can really have a negative impact.
There is ever more research emerging on the connection between emotions and health and wellbeing, and many of us will understand instinctively that carrying hardness in our hearts is simply not good for us. So, if we can get to a point in our lives where we can let go and move on, we will naturally reap the benefits.
What we might miss however, is that often the person we most need to forgive is ourselves. As much as being wronged, we have all messed up and hurt others, unintentionally though it might have been.
Not one of us is perfect. If we can find it in our own hearts to forgive ourselves, then we can free up much needed energy, and bring more joy and happiness into our lives.
In my own life, I had a wonderful mother who made a big mistake in her 20s, and I’m not sure she ever fully forgave herself for it. It left her needlessly carrying a deeper level of guilt and shame throughout her life, which placed an extra burden on her health. She’s no longer here now and as I write, I realise that I still need to forgive myself for not opening up these conversations when she was alive.
It’s an ongoing job. We will have to forgive many times over – ourselves and others. Even when we don’t yet know how, we can start along that road just by being open and having that intention.
Forgiving doesn’t make wrongdoing ok, nor does it mean you condone what was done. It is a choice, an inner shift that will free up your heart, and lift a burden that weighs all too heavily on your body, mind and spirit.
If you have signed up for Your Bold Next Step programme checkout my bonus forgiveness meditation.