The Anatomy of a Grudge

Sometimes it feels like we need a crowbar to pry out and break apart some of our deepest held resentments. The anatomy of a grudge begins as anger and hurt that sometimes weeps silently, and other times oozes wrecklessly like steamy black pitched tar, obstructing our clean air, suffocating the surfaces of our heart. And when that tar hardens, our soul freezes in a way, locked in stone. We go out about daily routines, we may even experience happy moments, but we are not truly spiritually whole.  It’s different than times of sadness or even when our tempers temporarily flare…we are stuck.       

Yet there always is a choice.  We can stay huddled under our covers (literally or metaphorically speaking), holding tight to our misery, our self-righteousness, we can wear it as our heavy armour.  And indeed, it is.  Our protective gear of fear.  I’m reminded of a song by Simon & Garfunkel, “I am a rock, I am an island…and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.”

But neither do they grow.  The anatomy of a grudge is that it is built to shrink those that it inhabits. It’s only method of expanding is to poison future generations with the worn out feelings of bitterness, of being done wrong. The only way that crowbar is going to give way is by loosening your iron will, by the sweat of your earnest prayers.  Asking to forgive, asking for forgiveness.  Expanding your notions of compassion, to include those who have injured you most completely, even yourself.

OK, but how do we do that?  After all, this blog is Spirituality for the Practical.  Some helpful suggestions include journaling your feelings.  Writing a letter to the person(s) that you hold the resentments towards, but only for yourself.  You can throw it away or burn it, releasing what had been stuck.  Using prayer (asking for God’s help) and guided meditation are time honored methods for engaging the process of putting the past behind you.  You can share your burden with a family member, friend, professional counselor, or spiritual advisor.   

The benefits of this process are related in a Mayo Clinic article, dated Dec. 8, 2007, entitled “Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness”.  The list is significant: healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, less stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, and less risk of alcohol and substance abuse.

Jesus too points to the practical benefits of forgiveness.  In Matthew 5: 25-26, He says: “Settle with your opponent quickly while on your way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown in prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  If you don’t deal with disagreements and arguments close to when they occur, they tend to fester. While revenge may then seem like a logical next move, in the end, you are the one who pays.

Ask and you will receive.  Keep knocking on that door, trusting that sooner or later, you will be answered, either out of love or the peskiness of persistence.  No matter…clinging resentment can be unglued.  Molten madness can be unearthed.  We don’t notice that our inner life is changing at first.  And then the tiniest opening, some of the suffocating blackness chips away.  There is light down below!  The crowbar falls, we are tired with the toil of love.

Book of the Day: The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie               

Quote from the Book of the Day: “It’s okay to be angry, but it isn’t healthy to be resentful.  Regardless of what we learned as children, no matter what we saw role-modeled, we can learn to deal with our anger in ways that are healthy for us and for those around us.  We can have our angry feelings.  We can connect with them, own them, feel them, express them, release them, and be done with them.  We can learn to listen to what anger is telling us about what we want and need in order to take care of ourselves.”

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