All around me I hear it. “Do you remember when so and so did this?” “I remember when, two years ago, so and so said this to me!”
It seems the older we get, the more “stuff” we feel we have to carry. By “stuff” I mean negativity, specifically those related to grudges or past wrongs. A while ago, I was having coffee with a friend of mine and relaying a story of extreme embarrassment, something I did to her. Although I had asked her forgiveness (and received it) at the time, I never forgot or forgave myself. So imagine my surprise, upon remembering it again, when she said, “When did that happen? I have no memory of that!”
She had done what I had not. She forgave to the degree of forgetting. I still held that grudge against myself. And even though, I’ve forgiven myself, there are times when I look back on that event and cringe.
Holding grudges is not anything new. We do it all the time. We hear people say, “I’ll forgive but I’ll not forget.” Actually, we should be saying, “I’ll forgive and I’ll learn a valuable lesson from this.” It takes effort to remember especially when remembrance often brings with it all those hurtful feelings we felt at the time. I can be perfectly content one minute and the next, by way of remembering the emotional abuse I suffered in my marriage, be totally upset and angry. Out of that rage stemming from events seven years old now, I’ll write something in my Facebook, or on Twitter – something hateful – because, you know, misery loves company. I really don’t want to let go of that anger; I just want others to feel it with me.
When all is said and done, where does that leave me? Have I gained anything? No. Have I solved anything? No. I fight all over again to get back to my place of peace and contentment. Admittedly, in a divorce situation where children are involved, it’s easy to do this over and over and over again. But then what happens? Am I content to transfer any unresolved feelings to my children? Or is my grudge so heavy that I just need them to bear it with me? I can tell you it’s never, ever fair to ask anyone to help you carry a grudge when you simply need to lay it down.
Of course, the most obvious problem of carrying a grudge is often the other person either doesn’t know or no longer cares about the event. They are content while you are miserable. Thus, not only are you carrying your grudge against them but now you have the added burden of being angry because they don’t recognize your grudge. And so the grudge keeps gaining momentum as it rolls downhill taking you with it.
Because there are so many around me who love to bear their grudges and often want me to help carry them, I’ve begun the habit of asking people, “And how long ago did this happen?” I’m laying down my grudges. One by one, I cannot bear them any longer. I am resolved to be content and no one can or will disturb that without my permission. It’s true people may not change. It’s also true I cannot change people. However, I can change how I react them. I can determine what values I’ve learned. And I can resolve to forgive.
Understand two things about forgiveness. The first is it’s a process. Some days, you will need to remind yourself to remain in an attitude of forgiveness. The second is it doesn’t make what someone did you right. It doesn’t justify it at all. But it does release you from the pain and anguish. Trust me, every time I do this, I breathe a little easier! It’s so worth it!
So, are you ready to shed a little emotional weight?