grudgeOne of the most powerful lines I’ve heard about the case for forgiveness is, “Holding onto a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Humans are complex and have different values, beliefs, and opinions.  If you’re interacting with others, your buttons will eventually get pressed.  If you believe strongly in a cause, you’ll be triggered when others rise against it.  If you’re fortunate to walk earth for any period of time, you’ll likely be criticized, attacked, cheated, excluded, bullied, or ignored.

Uplifting, right?  Well, it’s not all bad.  You will likely be loved, rewarded, chosen, and celebrated throughout life as well.  But we tend to give unnecessary energy to negative experiences, especially when we hold on and let them stir up old feelings of anger or shame.  We become a victim all over again as we replay the negative memory, giving power to the person or situation that has hurt us.

With a finite amount of energy each day, why give ANY of it to old wounds? What do we gain by replaying tapes from the past in our minds?  Mostly we just take away from our enjoyment of the present moment.

So how can we forgive and move on?  It isn’t easy, but it’s possible to free ourselves from the grip of a grudge.

–          Take responsibility for your part.  In every interaction between two people, 50% of ownership is ours.  We need to own our part even if it is merely deciding to engage in the first place.  While we can’t go back and change the past, we can learn from it and make different choices in the future.

–          On that note, when your buttons are pushed, consider it a learning opportunity.  Anger is often a defense for a vulnerable part of ourselves, perhaps something we fear or an unresolved issue from the past.  Without getting all psychobabble, the bottom line is: we don’t react strongly to things we don’t care about, so taking time to understand our triggers gives us the information needed to address them.

–          Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.  No matter how much research we do, we can’t know all the facts and nuances that contribute to a given situation.  We’re all human with fears, past traumas, and security issues, which sometimes cause us to make poor decisions.  We’ve all been there.  If we’re a recipient of one of these poor decisions, we can try to relate to the human side and realize that next time, it could be us making that poor decision, so perhaps we can let this one go (if you’ve ever been angered after being cut off while driving, and then mistakenly cut someone else off a week later, you know what I mean.)

–          Set a boundary and move forward.  There are times when we need to protect ourselves from further mistreatment and allow karma to take care of the rest.  It’s near impossible to change someone and spending time trying is usually a waste of energy.  Send positive thoughts to the universe that they “see the light” and then forget it.  It is likely they will.

–          Accept their apology.    Accepting a sincere apology doesn’t mean that what happened was okay.  Rather, it frees us from the burden of carrying the grudge.  By holding a grudge, we often do so with the thought that it’s “getting back” at the other person, and while this may or may not be true, it’s almost certainly hurting us.  Further, if this is a relationship that’s important, an “eye for an eye” mentality won’t solve anything. If we’re in a relationship where there’s a need to keep score, it may be time to explore that relationship.

So, what can you let go of today to free yourself to have a lighter tomorrow?

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