How to Nurse a Grudge
We all have experienced the hurt, betrayal and offense that comes when someone wrongs us. What happens next is the difference between living with emotional freedom or becoming enslaved by our anger and indignation. When we insist on nursing our grudges, they morph into vampires, sucking the life out of us.
In order to nurse a grudge, there are a few rules we must follow. Fortunately, these are as easy as falling off a log. Our very developed ego defense system will kick in and do the work for us. No problem.
Rules for Nursing a Grudge
- Stop talking to the person who offended you. Do not give them an opportunity to explain themselves or try to make amends. If they say they don’t know what they did to offend you, don’t tell them. Let them figure it out. They really know what they did — they just want you to tell them. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
- Never, ever, ever try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. Their fears, trauma, and resulting unskillful behaviors are no excuse. There is absolutely NO reason, ever, for someone to behave that way, no matter what they have gone through in the past. If they did something to offend you, they are unworthy of any compassion. End of story.
- Make sure you tell everyone you know about the thing this person has done to you. Repeat the story over and over until it becomes so embedded in your psyche that it becomes a part of your DNA. You want to never forget the details of this grievous wrong-doing, otherwise, you will get to a point where you won’t remember why you are so mad at them. Keep telling the story so you won’t forget.
- Ruin your life and blame it on them. Act out in ways that hurt yourself just to get back at them. Use their egregious act as an excuse for why you can’t move on with your life. Reassure yourself that it is not your fault; if they had not done such a horrible thing, you could be happy, but now you can never be happy and it’s their fault.
- Create allies to assist in nursing your grudge. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child, and the same can be said for a grudge. The more people you get on your side, the stronger your grudge grows and the more empowered you feel. Your grudge now has the backing of a tribe of people. It can’t help but grow strong with so many people tending to it.
- Always remember you are an innocent victim. That is why you must never consider the offending person’s story. Never take responsibility for any part of the situation that led to the offense. You are completely innocent. It is pretty heady being a victim and you will find that it gives you the same high as a drug. You will never want to give up your victimhood.
“The victim stance is a powerful one. The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy.” Dr. Paula Durlofsky
It is easy to fall into the trap of nursing your grudge, growing it up into a big strong vampire. Now it will turn on you and suck out your joy and peace because it needs those to stay alive. The bigger it gets, the smaller your life becomes. You have chosen the grudge over freedom and you have offered your life up as a sacrifice.
If you want to find a way to be free from your grudge vampire, here are a few tips for letting it go. However, unlike the tips for nursing a grudge, these are not as easy as falling off a log. They take a lot of hard work and they take time. If you are diligent, one day your grudges will no longer be sucking the life out of you. You can be free if you are willing to do the work.
Tips for Letting it Go
- Recognize that every human being is carrying around traumas, hurts, shame and fear. We all try to protect ourselves from feeling any of these unpleasant emotions, and this means we often act in ways that hurt others. Whether we are willing to let go of our grudge starts with acknowledging that every one of us is doing the best we can do.
- Be willing to clearly state what the other person has done to harm you. It’s easier to just write off the person who offended us. Righteous indignation feels like power. Confrontation feels vulnerable and scary. Screwing up the courage to tell someone what they have done to hurt us can open the door for a conversation that can lead to forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Process your feelings in a journal, or with a trusted counselor or confidante. This is different than blabbing about the event to everyone at the office or on your Facebook page. Instead of spending hours and hours rehashing the offense, focus on how you feel, and your options for healing and moving forward. The fewer people you tell about it, the sooner you can move beyond the offense.
- If the person apologizes, hear them out. If the apology is sincere and there is a true desire to make amends, be open to what your offender has to say. It may take time for you to feel ready to forgive, but at least open the door and allow the process to start. Simply state, “I am not ready to forgive you yet, but I appreciate your apology.”
- You are not a victim unless you choose to be. While you did not deserve to be hurt, you can decide how you go forward. You have the power to pick up the pieces and move on if it is impossible to reconcile. You can choose to let someone else’s actions chart the course for your life, or you can get out your maps and chart your course yourself. Either way, you only a victim if you choose to be.
- Forgive if you can, but concede our shared humanity if you can’t. Even if you are never able to fully forgive, when you acknowledge that a flawed human hurt another flawed human, it will be easier to let the grudge go. This does not mean we have to condone their action. We just need to admit that we are all trying to figure it out and sometimes we screw up. This includes us. Remember that next time you may be on the other side of the equation.
Brené Brown says, “ All I know is that my life is better when I assume people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgement and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”
They say the only way to kill a vampire is with a stake through it’s heart. We need to pound a stake into the heart of our grudges if we are going to be free and live our best life.
It isn’t easy, but life will give us many chances to get it right because being hurt by others is a big part of the human experience. It doesn’t have to be what dominates our experience, though. When we work at letting go of our grudges, the lifeblood will flow back in and we can live fully once again.