Do You Hold Grudges?

Do You Hold Grudges?

What is your oldest or most cherished grudge?

If you’re like the people that Tim Herrera, the author of a recent Smarter Living article, talked to, you’ll have “shockingly specific, intimate detail” about this grudge, whether it’s something that happened in school or at home, with a friend, classmate, teammate, teacher, boss or relative. As he writes, “Nothing is too small or petty when it comes to grudges.”

But in “Let Go of Your Grudges. They’re Doing You No Good.” he argues that holding them could actually be doing you damage:

One of my favorite answers I’ve gotten to this question came from a friend whose grudge stretched back to second grade. A classmate — he still remembered her full name and could describe her in detail — was unkind about a new pair of Coke-bottle glasses he had started wearing. Her insult wasn’t particularly vicious, but he’d been quietly seething ever since. Childhood!

Even this very publication has taken a pro-grudge stance, calling them “petty Tamagotchis in our emotional pocket.” The HBO show “Big Little Lies” perhaps put it best, when Reese Witherspoon’s character, Madeline Mackenzie, matter-of-factly noted: “I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets.”

But what does holding onto grudges really get us, aside from amusing anecdotes at parties (and pitch-perfect quips delivered by Ms. Witherspoon)? And what could we gain from giving them up?

I posed this question on Twitter last week, asking if people had ever given up on a grudge and, if so, how that made them feel. The responses were delightfully all over the place.

… But my favorite response was the most introspective one I got: “I felt very, very mature. I admitted that my feelings were valid for my situation at the time, but allowed myself to reshape my thinking/attitude based on my personal growth experiences since then. Physically, I felt lighter, but that sounds cliché haha.”

Yes, it does sound cliché, but it’s also a feeling that is backed by the science and research of forgiveness. Really.

A 2006 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology as part of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, suggested that “skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms, and thereby may help reduce” the stress we put on our immune and cardiovascular systems. Further, a study published this year found that carrying anger into old age is associated with higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness. Another study from this year found that anger reduces our ability to see things from other people’s perspective.

“Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master. That’s the reality of it,” said Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

— What grudges do you hold? Is Mr. Herrera right that you remember them in very specific detail, and are still seething about them weeks, months or even years later?

— Do you enjoy holding these grudges in some way, perhaps tending to them “ like little pets”? Or, do they “own” you and affect your happiness and peace of mind?

— What do you think of the advice from Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project? Does any of it resonate with you? Would you like to forgive and move on from your grudge?

— If you need a little more help, take the related “Should I Hold a Grudge?” quiz. What did you learn?

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