“Let today be the day you stop being haunted by the ghost of yesterday. Holding a grudge and harboring anger/resentment is poison to the soul.” ~Steve Maraboli
You are tired of it, aren’t you?
You find yourself arguing again. You feel anger rising up in you.
You realize there’s no use in trying to explain your position and decide to stop the conversation.
But the topic still buzzes in your head…
This used to define my marriage.
The first few years of my marriage were constant arguing. After each argument my mind would run over and over the things he had done to hurt me, the things I was expecting him to do, the things that I couldn’t trust him with.
I’d spend days without talking to him, my anger festering inside me.
After a couple of days I could still feel those negative feelings eating me inside, so I’d half-heartedly reach out to the “enemy.”
How long could we keep on going like this?
The power struggles, the held grudges, the unhappiness were taking a big toll on our marriage. They were creating distance between us. The strong bond we had was dying.
Finally I asked myself, “Where are we going? Are we going to let grudges ruin our marriage? Is our marriage going to become another statistic?”
After some thinking I realized the arguments were always over minor things, not important values, not the things that made each of us who we were.
Chores were a constant source of grudges for us. I’d expect him to spontaneously help. But he was wired differently. Unless I asked him to do something, he wouldn’t do it.
Why wasn’t he more helpful? Couldn’t he see that I was tired and needed help with the dishes? I’d wait for him to offer to help but he’d just sit at the table.
By the time I was done with the dishes I’d be so mad I’d snap at the first comment he’d make.
It was not a healthy situation.
We finally decided to make some changes. We decided to put our marriage first. To put small differences aside, at least most of the time.
Grudges are poisonous.
Deep down inside you, you know you should vanish them from your mind. They steal your happiness. And bottled up, that anger will rob you of your health, too.
Is it worth it to hold onto grudges?
Of course not!
Avoid Sabotaging Your Happiness
Whether it’s your partner, a friend, or a relative, grudges creep into our relationships. We are imperfect people living with other imperfect people in a very messed up world.
But we get to choose if we are going to put a higher price tag on our relationships and save them from ruin.
Of course, not every relationship is worth saving, but some are.
If you reached the point where you feel you need to decide to stay in the relationship or pull the plug, it will help you to sit down, once your anger is gone, and go through these seven eye-opening points.
1. Decide if you want to win the battle.
At the time of the argument you decided that you couldn’t let go. It was an important issue for you.
Is winning still important? Are you willing to permanently harm your relationship over this disagreement? You may find that the issue is very important or maybe not as much as you thought back then.
It’s up to you to decide.
2. Evaluate the importance of the argument.
You can’t evaluate impartially when you are angry, so don’t be hard on yourself. But once you aren’t angry any more, maybe after a good night sleep, you can continue the healing process.
Then ask yourself, am I compromising my beliefs if I let the grudge go?
In our marriage, I realized our grudges were based on petty things and the solution was within our reach. Communication was the key.
We didn’t change overnight. Years later we still have to work on letting go of grudges every now and then. But gone are the days of constant bickering.
3. Know that every relationship involves at least some struggle and disappointment.
No relationship runs smoothly all the time. You are going to have disagreements in every relationship. It’s part of living with others.
You may wonder, “What if it happens again?”
Grudges will happen again with this person and others. In our marriage disagreements happened again and again and again. We both had to learn how the other person communicated and the best way to work together.
But ask yourself, are you willing to live your life alone? You’d be missing out on a lot of bright, fun, and happy moments.
4. Ask yourself if you're truly “winning” by holding on to your grudge.
If you decide not to let go you’ll keep your ego intact. You “win.” Or do you?
What are you sacrificing? What do you gain by holding on to the grudge?
Sometimes the person you had the discussion with is not someone you should keep in your life, and sometimes it is.
In any case, keeping grudges is not good for your inner peace. Your mind goes down negative circles and that harms you more than anyone else.
5. Recognize the power of forgiveness.
Forgiving someone can be difficult. Of course it depends on what you are forgiving, but it’s still not easy.
But what do you lose by forgiving and letting go of this grudge?
In my life I’ve found that forgiveness can be exercised like a muscle. Small acts of forgiveness, like forgiving someone who cuts you off in traffic, help you become a more forgiving person. It’s liberating and brings healing to your soul.
6. See the bigger picture.
Think about the months or years you invested in this relationship, the good times you had together, the great things you found in this person. Is it worth it to harm the relationship because of a disagreement?
How important is the issue in the bigger picture?
Can you let go of the issue? Or, even better, sit together and try to reach an understanding? Hopefully that’ll be the case and you can move on and have a stronger friendship.
My husband and I sat together and put our grudges into perspective. It turned out our problems were not worth the grief they were causing, so we decided to work together to fix them.
After a disagreement, and once we have cooled off, we’d sit to discuss what had happened. We’d analyze what was said, what was implied, and what each had interpreted. We tried to stay as impartial as possible.
I realized I was jumping to conclusions.
We needed to work on our communication. I learned that I couldn’t count on him guessing what I needed. If I wanted him to do something, I needed to clearly ask for it.
It was not easy for me to ask, I was not wired that way, but I saw that when I’d ask for help he would be glad to give it. With time I got better at it and months would go by without disagreements.
We reaped great benefits from those conversations. And our marriage is stronger today.
7. Ask if you're willing to ruin your relationship over this.
You’re hesitant to let go. You think that means accepting the other person’s point of view. You think that if you let go you are giving in.
Your position doesn’t need to change, but you don’t need to ruin a relationship because of a disagreement.
You just chose to let go. You acted on your best interest to protect your health and inner peace against feelings of anger that want to bring you down.
Decide to Purge Anger from Your Mind
Grudges are like toxic clutter invading your soul and stealing your happiness.
Should you let them run wild?
Bottled up grudges and anger can make you sad and depressed, and they can cause health problems. Are you willing to submit yourself to that?
You can see that to let go of grudges is one smart, sensible, self-preserving decision away.
So choose to end the pernicious cycle of holding grudges and regain your inner peace today.