Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You (And How to Let It Go)
Holding grudges hold us back, but healing can’t always happen overnight.
When we forgive, we free ourselves.
“Sometimes closure arrives two years later, on an ordinary Friday afternoon, in a way you never expected or could have predicted. And you cry a little, and you laugh a little, and for the first time in a long time…you exhale. Because you are free.” — Mandy Hale
Letting go creates growth. Then, we can heal. Our hearts become open again to others if we let a grudge go. We stop seeing ourselves as victims but rather victors. This doesn’t lessen the accountability you may give another person. It just ensures that you do not mishandle them or yourself, or anyone else for that matter.
People may hurt us, but they don’t have to have power over us.
Forgiveness frees us from the pain and the grip of the past. There may be a reason for anger. The grudge may be justified. But it also may be keeping you living a happier life.
Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, not for the benefit of others. It is a healthier, stronger way to be. However, it does not mean that person must stay in our lives. Still, if you don’t try, you won’t find out if it’s possible for a person to be redeemed.
Redemption is possible. You would want someone to give you the chance to be better. So, find it in your heart to let the grudge go. Holding a grudge won’t get you anywhere faster and will ultimately slow you down.
Release the need to prove yourself right all the time. Release the need to assert your needs over another’s. Release the grudge, even if you still have to say goodbye.
Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You?
Research has found that people who hold grudges, being less prone to forgive, had higher blood pressure and were more likely to die from heart disease. It also affects your immune system and metabolism, as well as organ function.
Overall, your physical wellbeing is impacted not by the pain you feel towards the person’s actions but your holding onto the grudge that doesn’t allow you to see anything else. You live in the problem rather than the solutions. You lie to yourself that you’re fine when everything is falling apart. You shorten your life with the anger you hold. You lessen its quality, too.
Not only does holding a grudge have physical effects, but one can develop depression and anxiety. It makes you unhappy, plain and simple. It makes you angry, which creates stress over the situation. It is widely accepted that stress is bad for your health, both mental and physical. Your immune system may remain compromised if you don’t compromise with the person.
Grudges keep you replaying your hurt feelings and fueling the anger that wants the other person to feel pain. It blinds you to better ways. You may find yourself doing the very thing that hurt you to others if you don’t forgive and find healing. In the end, you may become the worst version of yourself in order to try to feel that you are not a victim of their mistakes.
Holding a grudge can often lead to focusing on the negative, which can hold you back from living a life of gratitude and joy.
If you develop the habit of holding a grudge, this can lead to developing unhealthy relationships full of guardedness and secrecy. You may refuse vulnerability or authenticity in your day to day life because you fear possible negative consequences.
We make ourselves smaller by holding our hands into clench fists. We rise higher when we let go and walk forward into the life that was meant for us.
How to Stop Holding a Grudge
Letting a grudge go can be a long, difficult process, but it’s one that will ultimately be worth it. Try engaging in some of the following techniques to move past the grudge and into forgiveness.
1. Don’t Play the Victim
To overcome a grudge, you must leave a victim mentality behind and also allow yourself to feel the pain, knowing also that a grudge prolongs the healing process. Establish boundaries and visualize releasing the grudge to start to free yourself.
Instead of playing the victim, see yourself as the hero of your own story, willing to let the grudge go to create the best possible life for yourself.
2. Don’t Vilify the Other Person
Focus less on vilifying the person and more on their intent. Life is not always black and white. Your feelings were hurt, but that may not have been the person’s intention. If it was, remove them. However, if miscommunication was removed from the world, we’d have far less broken hearts and hurt feelings.
Try to communicate with the other person if possible to understand what happened on their end and why things went the way they did. You may need to step back and realize not everything everybody does is because of you. It could be a reflection of how they are doing or something they are struggling with in their own life. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt before making them into the villain of your story.
3. Remove Emotions to See the Truth
When someone is struggling, they don’t always know how to put it into words and speak kindness. Sometimes, you have to be the bigger person and remove your emotions from the situation and help them. Sometimes, you have to be the one to say “I’m sorry” first because you have the emotional capacity for self-reflection, even if they don’t. Give them the chance to also own up, and your relationship with them may be strengthened. Talk using “I” statements, e.g. “I feel this because this happened,” not “You did this to me.” This will help the other person become accountable without feeling attacked.
This is how we renew relationships. We may move forward again because we know that life is short. We have flaws, too. We must not discount those for the sake of proving someone else right.
4. Act With Kindness
You can always say, “Talk to me. What’s really going on? You tell me you’re fine, but how are you really?” Everyone appreciates this. It also helps them to let their guard down. Maybe their actions aren’t about you. Or maybe they are. But if you say this to them, you won’t have any regrets. You will do the right thing no matter what and show them your maturity, that you refuse to be reactive just because they know how to get under your skin. You respond instead. You may even get help for them.
5. If It’s Time, Let the Relationship Go
It’s not about whether you believe people can change or not. It’s giving the opportunity for them to show you that they are more than the sum of their mistakes. So are you. Allowing for such humanity is both healing and humbling. Even if they were at fault, it doesn’t mean you need to only see them for their worst moments.
If someone did something truly hurtful and with the intent to hurt, then it’s okay to let them go. A life of joy comes from positive connections with others. If this particular connection is no longer serving as a source of good energy, feel free to leave it to the past and move on to finding better relationships. Once you let go of the grudge you had with the other, you’ll find you have more energy to devote to new connections.
6. See Forgiveness as a Strength
If there’s an opportunity to give someone the benefit of the doubt, take it, because you would want them to give you such a benefit. It doesn’t mean you’re weak to let the grudge go. It’s the opposite. It takes strength to start over, to forgive, to let kindness win. It takes strength to put the ego aside for empathy. We don’t know what road someone has travelled to get where they are. All we can do is walk beside them in the time we have given to us. We can even help change their course for the better.
If you can do nothing else, be kind without the need of anything returned. Even if it means saying goodbye, let the grudge go with kindness towards both yourself and the other person.
Once you are able to forgive and let go of the grudge, you can start to live a better, freer life. You’ll find that you suffer less, feel less angry, and feel more empowered as the hero of your story.
You never know how someone may later serve you in life if you don’t give them a chance now. Holding grudges shortens our lives, hurts our mental health and ruins our relationships. Let a grudge go and know that you will have a happier life if you do so.
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