A grudge is rarely associated with anything positive. On the contrary, as my friend Anna (her name is not Anna) put it – we are conditioned to believe by society that it is something bad for you. Sayings like “Let it go” and “Forgiveness is key to happiness” are modern day mantras to living a healthy and peaceful life. Each religion preaches about forgiveness, to my knowledge there is no teaching that says “Hold thy grudge”. Yet – could it be that we have it all wrong? Is there a way that a grudge could be beneficial for you?
I came across this when I was trying to let go of a grudge on my end. Someone close to me had said I wasn’t much of a cook and I was insulted. Please note that I am well aware of the fact of how petty it sounds. Yet, aren’t most grudges of the petty kind? I got hooked on the fact that anytime I met this person at dinners, I kept remembering that person mentioning my culinary skills. Why did they say that, it wasn’t even true and that person hadn’t even tried most of my cooking – why did they have to be so blunt about somehting that wasn’t even true? Yet the real question hit me – why did it bother me so much? I could not enjoy this person’s presence, especially at dinner parties.
So I did some research. Turns out, grudges have quite a survival component to them. For one, they teach you something about a person you should look out for. They give you an introduction to a trait of a person and you tag it so you can remember it for the future. For example, in my case it taught me that in the future this person is more likely to say blunt comments and I might not want to have this person too involved in my life if I do not want to hear opinions served striaght up on the rocks (I will for one, never ask this person about my weight). In other cases, it teaches you for example not to trust someone with a secret, or not to lend them money. Grudges have a learning component to them, they are a sort of alarm system that is ready to protect you from a negative experience again.
Another thing I learned about grudges, is that often it also tells us a lot about ourselves. It is a trigger that highlights something about a situation was not agreeable, our own feelings were hurt or upset and not adressed. That is why they linger around. Its so to say an unresolved issue that is waiting there to be adressed or fixed. It is not only an early warning system to how others might treat you, but also a warning system to tell you something is not ideal inside.
If grudges have such a large learning component to it, why are there so many teachings that refer to staying away from them? Back to my friend not called Anna, she notes that often, you spend a lot of mental energy on a grudge, which can manifest itself phsycially too. Holding in negative emotions such as anger or hurt does you more harm than good. Anna adds, if having grudges have a survival component to them, then shouldn’t letting go of them too?
Perhaps we should not dismiss grudges so suddenly. Perhaps we should awkwnoledge them and wonder why they are lingering, what are they teaching us before we decide that the anger shouldn’t follow us around. Funny enough, I went to my cooking grudge and asked him what he thought of grudges. And he left me with a very wise statement: “I guess its best to forgive, but not forget. Keep it in the back of your mind but don’t carry it around with you more than that”. I guess I’ll listen to him on that. In the meantime, I stepped up my cooking game and he has since retracted his statement. I’ve learned, the best way to get rid of a grudge is to have it awkwnoledged by the person that caused it. We don’t all get that satisfaction though. If you find a way to forgive but not forget, you get the most out of your grudge.