I have to confess that I’m a big fan of grudges.
Maybe I’m biased; I come from a long line of grudge-holders. To be honest with you, I was really good at holding on to resentments for exhaustingly long periods of time. It felt like a little twitch of power in a situation where I was otherwise helpless. Someone may have taken advantage of me, but I was keeping score and would return to get revenge as soon as circumstances permitted.
It’s kind of a miserable mindset, honestly. Once you live long enough, you can gather a ton of unsettled scores that all just take up space in your brain. Still, when people would urge me to forgive, it sounded like the most excruciating option. I heard every platitude, every mouthful of pop psychology. People insisted that by forgiving, I was doing myself a favor. They didn’t understand that keeping my anger felt like doing myself a favor!
Finally, I figured out what the missing piece was, and I’m glad I did, because it turns out it’s the missing piece for a lot of clients I work with, too. If someone trespasses against you, and you “forgive and forget”, what will keep them from doing it again? How will you know you are safe? Just like physical pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is bad for us, resentment is our brain’s way of saying, “Do NOT let that happen to me again.”
That’s why, when I’m working with clients, I emphasize that safety is a critical step before we can forgive. People who suffer abuse sometimes need that resentment so that they can set the boundaries they sorely need in order to lead a happier, healthier life. Far too many of us get hurt by other people and ignore the pain. It’s much easier to turn that pain into anger, rage, or resentment, or to numb ourselves to it.
What do you need in order to be safe? Do you need distance or space from someone in your life? Do you need to set some rules for the relationship? Hell, do you need a restraining order? Once you know what you need in order to be safe, then make it happen.
THEN, and only then, my friend, you can go about the work of forgiveness. You won’t need to keep score, and you won’t need to get revenge. The person who wronged you will be at a safe distance, and you can focus on your own kick-ass life- one without all the baggage, and with tons of love being given and received every day.
Would you like to work towards forgiveness and freedom from resentment? Therapy can help. Please feel free to call me at 323-553-1532 for a phone consultation, and bring your grudge with you.