Guest Post by Kim W.
In Part One of this post I gave an example of how I was secretly holding a grudge. Below are the full details of the lies I tell myself to cover up my nasty grudges.
Secret Grudge 1: Personal Interpretation
As discussed in Part One, my husband might think that he’s said something innocuous, but oh no, my wise lady parts know better. I am therefore obliged to explain what he really means, which is usually not so innocuous.
"Bozo said he didn’t like my clown makeup, therefore he thinks I’m ugly."
I know what he really meant. I’m a people-person, I read people. When people speak, I listen carefully, and I truly understand the subtle message behind their words. We are so strictly bound by formalities that people aren’t free to say what they really mean. I hear the truth. I’m empathic.
The Insidious Truth:
No, you’re not. Perhaps you may actually be sensitive to what’s going on under the surface, but you cannot use empathy as an excuse to take things personally. Or to layer your own interpretation on someone else’s intention. In The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz says, don't take anything personally:
"Nothing others do is because of you... When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering."
I cling to my own interpretation of other’s words. When I recall an event, I don’t play back what really happened, I recall my version of events. Which is usually more hurtful than reality. When I hold on to that hurt, I’m creating a grudge from thin air.
Secret Grudge 2: Keeping a List
I can recite, without pause or breath, every single word of negativity anyone has ever said to me. Ever. Back to the first grade. It may be my super-hero power.
"Bozo said my juggling was sub-par, and that my red nose was so last season, and that no one could mime his way out of a box like him."
I’m just telling it how it is. I’m not adding my own opinion to what Bozo said, I’m just reporting. Just the facts, ma’am. Wouldn’t want to forget any of those horrible, soul-crushing nasties, now would I? This is just good record keeping. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.
The Insidious Truth:
No way in hell am I an unbiased observer of the events of my life. There is no journalistic integrity when it comes to your friends and family. I don’t want to to acknowledge the emotional undercurrent, so instead I focus on the easy part: 'the facts'. They sure are a lot easier to gossip about. Reliving the play-by-play bypasses a lot of necessary introspection. Sometimes the introspection leads to realizing the word or action wasn’t so bad, and I can let it go. Or introspection shows me that, in fact, it was that bad, and it’s best to bring it up with the person in question. But skipping that introspection, can quickly lead to keeping a ‘grudge list’.
Secret Grudge 3: Conditional Demands
All I ever want out of anyone is a heartfelt apology. I crave apologies. I’d shoot apologies directly into my veins if I could. Other people may want something else, like recognition, or someone admitting they were wrong, or even a hug.
"If Bozo would just admit he had no place taming that lion, we could put this all behind us."
It would be so damn easy if he just did admitted it. How can Bozo not know he was wrong? How can Bozo not see it? How can Bozo not do this one simple thing!? One day Bozo will see the error of his ways and everything will be ok.
The Insidious Truth:
No, he won’t. Well, perhaps he’ll have a near death experience as he falls into the jaws of that lion, and his flash of insight will be, "I should have apologized". But it’s unlikely. What’s more likely is that Bozo doesn’t know he’s hurt you (or he does and his own personal hurt makes him feel justified in his actions) and you’re carrying around this secret demand, letting it pollute all your interactions. It’s ok to want something from those you love, but it’s not ok not to hold a the relationship hostage in exchange for an apology ransom. Either you fess up and say, this is what I need from you for a healthy relationship, or you let the grudge go.
And there you have my three secret grudges. You’ll notice there aren’t many suggestions for how to stop holding a grudge. But for me, just calling a spade a spade, and not rationalizing it as something else, has helped immensely. With the people that truly matter, I day-dream less about spontaneous mea culpas. With those that don’t matter, I let the grudge go and let them out of my life.
If you’re wondering, “Hey, does Kim hold any grudges against me?” the answer is, damn right I do. I hold unnecessary, secret grudges against everyone. But I’m working on it. Unless you’re that Bozo guy. That guy is a real jerk.