Some people have an amazing ability to hold a grudge. The other day I was talking with a friend, telling them that I had heard from a person with whom I haven’t spoken in many years. This person had taken advantage of what had once been a solid friendship and ultimately did what some people would call betraying me. But when they reached out to me a few weeks ago, I was surprised but pleased. See, I had long since gotten over what they had “done to me,” and had moved on with my life. I was able to reconnect with them and while we probably won’t stay in close contact, it was good to clear away the stale air of more than 15 years of estrangement. Anyway, as I was telling my friend about my unexpected encounter with this person from my long ago, they said to me, “Oh right, I know from your blog that you believe in that forgiveness crap.” Forgiveness crap?
I was momentarily startled at this reaction but then reminded myself about my friend’s relative capacity (or lack thereof) for offering forgiveness if they felt that had been wronged. I had to shake off a sense of judgment of them for holding decades-long grudges against people for all manner of slights and injuries. It is not for me to judge anyone for how they choose to react to various situations; I have my own reacting and coping strategies. I have generally felt like I can’t afford to hold grudges or ill will against someone, even if they “deserve it.” Life is too short for me to take myself through all those changes.
What I will say, though, is that I am sad for my friend. I’ve written about “that forgiveness crap” in this blog many times. I am a firm believer in the power of forgiveness mostly for the benefits it bestows on those who offer the forgiveness much more so than for the one who receives it. When you think about the actual words, “holding a grudge” it conjures up the image of something holding onto something, carrying around the excess baggage of unforgiveness. It would seem to me that over time it would all get terribly heavy and burdensome, particularly for someone who is carrying multiple grudges. It seems like an awful lot to carry. How about letting go?
I don’t want to act all sanctimonious and act like I have it all figured out; I don’t. What I do have is a strong hunch that it serves me better to let go the grievances–legitimate or otherwise–that I have periodically have against people in my life. When I say I can’t afford to hold grudges, I mean it. I feel like it is a waste of time and a whole lot of energy to be angry at someone who did something to me that was harmful in some way or that I didn’t like. So while I may feel something at the outset, I have learned to let go of the anger and hurt as best I can. And while some pains are deeper than others depending on the nature of the wounding, sooner or later as time passes I slowly ease and then lose my grip on the negativity that the original wounding created. The scar that remains behind serves as a reminder that, while injury did occur, it healed until there is barely a memory of the original wound.
I am grateful for the gift of forgiveness. It is indeed a gift that keeps on giving. To truly forgive from the heart is one of the best gifts I can give another person and yet it is definitely a gift I give to myself. It is as wise and profound a spiritual practice as is gratitude, generosity, meditation, and prayer, and while I don’t necessarily want to have occasions where I am injured and am called upon to offer forgiveness, I nonetheless won’t shrink away from it. For that I am most exceedingly grateful. And so it is.