“Of course, anger can always be justified. But then, so can forgiveness. It all depends on how much more you want from the adventure.”
Everybody needs to relax, right? Well, that is why I do crossword puzzles. The other day I came across the clue for a 6-letter word meaning “something you hold or nurse.” The answer? Grudge.
This clue offers a recipe for how to keep a grudge – you hold on tight, you feed and nourish it so it stays lodged in your mind. And what are we cherishing so dearly? As the dictionary defines it, “a feeling of ill will or resentment.”
To anyone out there still holding a grudge, is this what you really want?
Why Let Go
Freeing ourselves from the web of a grudge needs to be approached with care. People are capable of doing some pretty nasty things, and maybe you have been the target of some of them. If so, I am truly sorry for the pain you experience. But now the question to consider is: have you suffered enough? Does it serve you to hold onto the story of what happened or do you want to be free of it?
As you reflect on this question, here are some facts to consider:
- Forgiveness is about us and our peace of mind; it is not about the other person.
- The person who benefits most from forgiving is us, by far.
- Forgiving does not condone or excuse someone else’s bad behavior.
- We cannot change the past or others’ behavior; we can shift our thoughts and feelings about what happened.
- We can let go without an apology.
- Forgiveness lowers stress, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, and enhances positive thoughts and feelings.
Just as forgiving benefits us, not forgiving perpetuates our suffering. When we are caught by a grudge, here is what happens:
- We think about the tragic story of what occurred – sometimes a lot.
- We justify continuing to hold the grudge by reminding ourselves, over and over, how awful the other’s behavior was.
- We feel angry and sad.
- There is often a rift in our relationships.
Letting go of all of this is a return to wholeness and relaxation. We stop expending energy trying to protect ourselves. We take a huge weight out of our minds, hearts, and bodies.
Consciously Choosing to Let Go
The first crucial step in letting go of a grudge is to turn our attention to our own thoughts and feelings. Incessantly repeating the story of what happened distracts us from our inner experience and keeps the grudge in place. The medicine is to open our hearts to ourselves and tenderly embrace all of the hurt and pain. As we learn to care for ourselves, the focus on the bitter and resentful thoughts and feelings diminishes.
Shifting our attention doesn’t happen by magic. It takes our conscious commitment to the intention to heal ourselves, no matter what. It is a decision we make for our own well being. It’s the same as choosing an apple over a doughnut – we consciously decide to move in the direction of helpful rather than hurtful.
When you look inside yourself, are you ready? I know you can find the brittle story of what happened, but can you also connect with the part of you that is fed up with feeling bad? When we desire freedom, more than anything, we are ready for true healing.
Caring for Our Tender Feelings
With an open and accepting heart, the forgiveness inquiry begins by asking, “What am I actually feeling in this moment?” Be curious about what you discover: maybe sadness, anger, or fear, or the stronger feelings of sorrow, fury, or terror. You might notice physical tension or a sense of feeling stuck in different areas of the body.
In the spirit of cultivating inner peace and happiness, allow these experiences to be received fully by you. Saying, “Yes!” to each one, brings the liberation you are longing for. No longer hidden and festering, they are fully welcomed into the light of your attention.
As we are all well aware, the thoughts associated with a grudge have the power of a freight train barreling down the tracks. We cannot control their arrival, but we can control how much attention we give them. Our job is to look underneath the thoughts to reconnect with our tender feelings, over and over.
Odd as it may sound, we don’t try to let go. When we refuse to give the story our attention and we care so lovingly for those most vulnerable places inside of us, the letting go happens. We notice feeling lighter, having more energy, smiling more, being kinder to others.
Returning to Wholeness
Goodness and love are our nature. As soon as these essential qualities have a portal, they can’t help but express themselves. Holding a grudge pushes aside our essence, our very life force, in favor of misery and separation. When we light up our dark secrets with love and understanding, peace beyond peace is revealed.
Do you want to forgive but feel stuck in the process? What has helped you to let go? I’d love to hear. Everyone benefits from the challenges and revelations you share.
image credit: atoach