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How to Stop Holding a Grudge: 7 Tips

In preparation for sitting around the Thanksgiving table this week, I thought we should re-visit a post from June.  All of us will be dealing with family this week, whether we are face-to-face or not.  Let’s make things a bit easier by cleaning up some of our “emotional trash.”  

My uncle died.  I just found out, literally…on Facebook, no less!  I’m not sure when he died, how he died or who was there.  I haven’t seen him since I was 16.

Both sides of my family have been serious grudge holders.  I mean serious.  Well, not Romeo and Juliet serious or “Hatfield and McCoy” serious, but I-will-not-speak-to-you-ever-again serious.  I have an aunt on my mother’s side whom I have never known, seen or met.  I only know her first name.  She and my mother have not spoken my entire life.  My aunt on my father’s side (whose husband passed) held so many grudges I’m not even sure what they all were.

Needless to say, I learned to fight the grudge-holding gene (and daily living example) which pushes me to handle my feelings by holding it against the offender…forever.  People will always do something that hurts you – especially people you love – but, for your own well-being, you have to let. it. go.  If you need a little help in this area, let me share what I have learned:

1. Acknowledge your feelings.

All of them.  Is it hurt you feel?  Disappointment?  Or fear?  If I really tear down the issue to its smallest point, it is fear.  At first, I’m angry or hurt.  But then I realize I’m really afraid that: they don’t like me; I’m not good enough; I’ll be vulnerable; etc.  You have to figure out what the REAL problem is and give it some light.

2. Talk.

Talk about the real issue bothering you.  If appropriate and possible, talk directly with the person(s) responsible.  For many people, this is hard to do.  Do it in your own time.  It doesn’t have to be immediate.  There is a lot to say for timing!!!  Wait until you have a grip on your own feelings (#1) before you approach.  You will feel a bit relieved if you do.  Sometimes, this is the end of it!  Sometimes, you will be surprised!  The offender might not even have realized the offense took place!  Which brings me to the next point…

3. Put yourself in their shoes.

Try to understand why the other person feels or acts they way they do.  Just try.  If you can at least figure out where the person is coming from, maybe you can see a solution that you didn’t notice before.

4. Release your own expectations, and accept the facts.

Many times it is OUR expectations, desires, ways of thinking, ways of doing, etc. that cause us disappointment.  Not everyone operates the same way.  Releasing expectations is not the same as lowering the bar.  We can hold ourselves to a high standard, but we can not expect everyone to feel the same way.  Accept people for who they really are.  Not everyone can apologize or face the truth.  Getting an apology might, again, be your OWN need or expectation.  (Some people really were raised in barns…not that I’m saying anything against barns, or saying that all barn inhabitants are the same.  It is what it is.)  That being said…

5.  Keep on truckin’…away from these people, if necessary.

There is a difference between removing yourself from harmful situations and holding a grudge.  One great thing about not being in high school anymore is that you don’t have to be friends with everybody.  Did you hear me?  YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE FRIENDS WITH EVERYBODY!!!  As adults, we can choose who we enjoy being around, who brings us joy.  And we can drift away from those who do not.  Some people are forever unbearable, abusive, detrimental.  If some of those people are in your family, you don’t hang out with them so much.  You do not, however, ignore them at the holiday function and pretend they don’t exist.  Acknowledgement and courtesy is not the same as investing time or emotion in a person.

6. Let it go.

Really.  Now that you have accomplished steps 1-5, just let it go.  If you are a tactile person, imagine the person as a fist.  Squeeze the “person,” the problem, the feelings into a fist, as tight as you can.  Tight.  Tighter.  Really imagine them all in there.  Hold your breath as you squeeze.  Then, slowly open your hand as you exhale.  Do it again when you feel the situation rising back up.  When you are calm, focus on forgiveness.  This is hard for me.  The best I can muster, most times, is to let the insult go to where I simply don’t think about it (or when I do, I don’t have that same screaming rage feeling creeping up).

7. Choose peace.

Choose to be filled with peaceful (other) thoughts!  Every time that old-stinky-shoe of a memory creeps into your mind, chase it away with a different one.  How about something that is happening right now?  Thinking about past injuries, holding a grudge, all of that is actually “living in the past.”  Chase those thoughts away with something immediate.  The sunshine, the sound of the rain, the cashier at Wal-Mart.  All of this is happening now.  Smile at her (the cashier).  She’s probably having a really bad day.


Holding a grudge makes you sick.  It steals your energy.  It attracts more negative things into your life.  Walk away from it.  If you have trouble forgiving all the way, just keep moving further away from those negative feelings.

I’ve got children.  I want them to learn by example.  My uncle, whom I genuinely liked, died…and I didn’t. even. know.



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