Relationships are such an important part of our lives. They start with our parents, siblings and family. Then with friends, partners and co-workers. It’s impossible to go through life without developing relationships. In order to develop these relationships we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to some degree. It’s inevitable you won’t feel or cause emotional pain during these relationships. How do you handle that conflict? Are you holding grudges in relationships? Do you have a difficult time letting things go? Or, do you know someone who does?
Why Holding Grudges In Relationships Is Harmful
You are Hurting Yourself Not the Other Person
So why can holding grudges in relationships be harmful to you? Have you seen some of these quotes?
“It hurts more to hold grudges than to forgive. The anger we hold inside damages us, nobody else. Don’t be a prisoner of yourself.”
“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.”
“Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; It makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.”
“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Holding grudges only hurts you, not the person you feel wronged by.
Relationships Are Complicated and Hard Work
Relationships are complicated and they take hard work. In my experience, people tend to take most relationships for granted. It’s easy to do. Whether it’s family and you believe they will always be there. Or, it’s a close friend or romantic partner and you believe you have a special connection. People believe they don’t need to work as hard. There are countless reasons why we take relationships for granted BUT we ALL need to work at them.
I have heard so many people, romantic couples, friendships and family alike, say “it shouldn’t be this hard,” or “I don’t think we should have to work this hard.” Well, let me tell you…YES, IT IS HARD and YES, YOU DO HAVE TO WORK HARD! Here is a great article from Deborah L. Cabaniss., M.D, “Good Relationships Take Hard Work.” This one relates to romantic relationships but this applies for ALL relationships.
There are few relationships that won’t have some sort of conflict at one time or another. Conflict is normal and can be healthy. How you manage that conflict is a critical part of whether you decide to hold on to a grudge or let things go. Communication, listening and empathy can play a part in how to stop holding grudges.
The fact is we all feel wronged at one time or another. YOU will probably wrong someone in one of your relationships as well. You may choose to stay and work on the relationship or to walk away. Either way, it is important to learn to let things go and not hold any grudges. Not for them but for you!
Holding Grudges Can Be Harmful
Here are just a few things that can happen to people who are holding grudges in relationships and after the relationships have ended.
- Become resentful toward the other person which will create a greater divide and grow further apart
- Feel unhappy, bitter and angry in other aspects of their life, not just that specific relationship
- Become anxious and depressed
- Become obsessed with feeling wronged, lose enjoyment in their life
- Lose trust in others
To be honest, it takes more work to hold a grudge. People spend so much energy (negative energy) to keep that grudge going. I don’t know about you but I’m tired most of the time (I have 3 young boys! Ha!). I don’t want to spend my energy on negativity. I’d rather spend it doing other things that bring me joy. I try to teach my boys these same principles when they are having conflict with their siblings. A motto we live by in our house is “no holding grudges.”
Forgiveness Is For You NOT For The Other Person
How to let go of grudges is easier said than done. If you have signs of resentment in your relationships then it’s time to take a look at how you deal with conflict. Are you communicating or holding things in? Do you listen or are you making assumptions? Are you compromising at all? Do you have empathy or an understanding for that person or the situation? These are just a few of the important questions to ask yourself when learning to let go.
The truth is…it takes forgiveness. Even if the person you feel wronged by doesn’t apologize.
The Act Of Forgiveness
It isn’t always easy to forgive, especially, if this is a new concept for you. Let me first remind you what forgiveness IS NOT. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the other person’s actions, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to feel sad, hurt or upset anymore (learn how to feel those feelings and then let them go), it doesn’t mean you don’t have to work on the relationship (if you choose to stay you must work on it) AND it isn’t for the person that wronged you. Forgiveness is for YOU!
Forgiveness is a choice, it’s a decision by you to move on. To forgive you must be able to recognize the value of it. Value yourself and the level of happiness in your life. Then you will see the importance of forgiveness and letting go of the anger and resentment.
Forgiveness is a process. Once you have made the decision to forgive, then, determine who and what needs to be forgiven. Do you need healing? Do you need someone to confide in, do you need to seek individual therapy or group therapy? Accept what has happened and who has hurt you. Understand that you are not excusing the person’s behaviors but accepting the act itself and willing to move past this. There is no need to talk to that person to forgive (in some cases you can’t). Forgiveness can be done by yourself, say it out loud, write a letter (you don’t have to send it). Forgiveness will happen when you stop feeling that anger and resentment.
Bottom line, have compassion and love for yourself to let things go. Allow yourself to be free and live a happy life.