Saturday, October 2, 2010

Are you holding a grudge?

I do not claim to have a degree in psychology, only that I feel I have lived long enough to be an experienced observer of humans and their relationships. With the fall and winter holidays fast approaching, there is one worrisome thing that really troubles me....that is, how many people are out there who are choosing to estrange themselves from a certain family member or a friend, because they're clinging on to a long held grudge? This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon phenomenon. I am sorry to say that I believe many people can identify with this. Sometimes these splits are partly due to misunderstandings. If someone has chosen to cut off contact with another person and they aren't willing to talk with one another over the reason why, they deprive themselves of being able to air their grievances, and thus never get anything resolved. Maybe a mediation has been tried, but ended without any positive results because tempers flared, and neither side ended up being heard. Sadly, it might have been made even worse, because more hurtful things were said.

It may be that people haven't learned to fight fairly. Using the word "fight" is not the preferred word to use, so instead I could say that you can increase your chances of making yourself heard during a disagreement, and having your points better taken, if you learn to debate and negotiate in a calm and fair way. Some may feel they have a righteous reason to be upset with the other person, but if you let your anger get the best of you and start name calling, assigning blame, or use potentially unfair or exaggerated accusations, and/or belittle the other, it is not a good way to patch things up. It just puts them on the defensive and makes them dig their heels in even more.

But sometimes, the split is not just a misunderstanding. Some may feel the split was necessary because the words or deeds that caused injury were done intentionally. We may not ever want to excuse or forget what that person said or did to us in the past....and I'm not saying excusing it or forgetting it is necessary.  It depends on what the offense was, but does the chosen punishment fit the crime? 

However, you may decide to break the deadlock (end the grudge) because you feel this relationship may be worth salvaging.  You could choose to do this for several different reasons.  It could be either for your own sake or for both of yours, but at least realize that it just might also be welcome news  for the rest of the other people around you who may have been affected by the uncomfortable situation that your dispute caused.  If you can "bury the hatchet" with each other, it can make planning for family and/or friendly gatherings a whole lot easier for everyone. We should be able to deal with the problem in our own minds first, and then decide if there's a need to resolve it, even if it's just for the sake of your friend's or family's unity and harmony.

On the other hand, we may resist the idea of making up, opting to not deal with it at all. You may still have no interest in salvaging the troubled relationship, and choose to continue to avoid any contact with them. You could rationalize it as being a self-preservation measure. You may be saying, "Who needs the aggravation? Why put myself through it?"  That's one way of dealing with it. But once again, you also have to realize how this decision can affect your other relationships, especially with other family members. In this case, we're all connected, whether we like it or not!  Some may agree with you, some may not, but it is ultimately up to the ones initially involved to decide if they want to resolve it or keep holding onto that grudge.  

If you eventually decide it is better to get these grudges resolved, not just for yourself, but for the sake of family and/or friends, one way to do this (and it's not always easy) is to forgive those who offended and hurt you. "What?!"  Well, yes. What I've learned is that it's one of the only ways people are able to free themselves from the ongoing anger and spitefulness they're holding onto. If it helps, try to think of forgiveness as the self-preservation measure for yourself! Yes, you could even consider it as being a selfish way for you to get yourself back into a better state of mind. You're not just doing it for their benefit, you're doing it for yourself! The hardest thing to overcome is that people convince themselves that if they forgive their offender, then they actually think they're doing them a favor, by granting them this. This is normally the last thing you want to do when you're mad at someone! But instead, the opposite can be true. Think of it this way....You don't have to excuse or forget their bad behavior....but by forgiving them, you're helping yourself to enter into a better frame of mind. There's no need for you to continue to drag yourself down by holding on to grudges.  It's a waste of time and energy to be filled with animosity and bitterness. Looking at it in a vain way, holding on to that negative energy, which is held inwardly, is not good for your health, and it's not very becoming in how you project yourself outwardly....and it can age you! If you choose to hang onto the grudge, know that it can wear on you.  Don't continue to be the victim, even though you may believe you are deserving of this title, because you were the injured party.  Instead, free yourself by letting go of this role and become a better person for it!  You have overcome it!  On the other hand, if you are perceived to be the oppressor or offender, free yourself from the hidden guilt you may be secretly harboring because of pride.  Admit your mistakes, forgive yourself, even if you can't receive forgiveness from the injured party, and resolve to make amends and do better in the future.

As bad as anything is though, I have to hope that eventually we can all be willing to patch things up somehow, but you have to have the desire to put in the time and effort to get it done. It takes courage to take the first step.  Be hopeful that it might possibly have a positive outcome. It's well worth it, if you find out both of you are willing to forgive each other.  If you do get rejected, know that the world will not come to an end.  What matters is that you swollowed your pride, and made an attempt to make things right again.  People will take notice and presumably in most cases, they will appreciate that you put forth the effort. 

Another tough thing to do is to be able to accept people as they are. Those offensive people you're mad at may never change their ways.  Understand that we can't control them, or expect to force a change in them for the better, even though it would be great if that happened. Actually, the one exception is that parents should have some control over their young children. Teach and admonish them, in order to encourage better behavior. Demand respect from them. But when you're dealing with adults or grown children, that's another story. It's never too late for adults to learn to change their ways, but they have to be willing to make that change themselves. We can try to influence it, but we can't control what the result will be with the grown ups. In the end, we can only control how we behave and react towards them.

You must know, however, I'm not encouraging anyone to repair a relationship that was ever threatening or caused anyone to be in harm's way. I'm talking about grudges that are held onto because of perceived slights or being on the receiving end of hurtful words or mean spirited deeds.  This turmoil may have also caused tension within your own extended family or circle of friends.

Of course, if you're treated wrongly, you're mainly thinking of your own hurt feelings, and it's only natural to hold some resentment towards the offensive one. But at the risk of sounding repetitive, I'd also like to repeat how important it is to realize how your actions and reactions towards your perceived offender can affect others....not only directly, but indirectly with people who were never involved in the original incident in the first place. An example of this is dragging other people into it and expecting them to show their loyalty to you by taking sides. Not good! Why? Here's an example. If you break a law, and subsequently are arrested and brought to trial, your claims are heard by a jury of your peers. But in personal disputes between two people, their family and/or friends should not be put in a position to become your judge and jury. We're not usually objective anyway! The best case scenario would be that the two of you should attempt to work it out and resolve it among yourselves. Jesus tells the story of a man who tried to draw Him into a personal family dispute, one that he was having with his brother. He asked Jesus to decide in his favor and tell his brother of this decision. Jesus said, "My friend, who appointed Me the judge or arbitrator of your claims between the two of you?" (Luke 12:14)

As I've said, the preferred method is that personal disputes can, and should, be resolved between the two involved parties and shouldn't be something that simmers indefinitely and goes on, unresolved for years. People normally don't want to be put in the middle, or be forced to take sides.  We've learned that God doesn't want that either.  Many believe He will however, judge us by observing how we end up handling our own individual disputes with one another. We can't expect Him or anyone else to step in and resolve all our issues for us. He gave us our own free will, and I'm sure He hopes we can use that free will to work things out with each other. It's up to us.  However, what God did do was give us some guidelines in the Old Testament, such as when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  For Christians, we also believe God so loved the world that He also sent us the Messiah, His Only Begotten Divine Son Jesus, who dedicated and ultimately gave His life, according to His Father's will, as the perfect sacrifice for all mankind.  He paid the price for our sins, and He tells us that He is the only One who can provide us with the true path to salvation and our own eternal life.  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)  He also said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end," says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” (Revelation 1:8)

Jesus also left us with many parables (stories) that contain useful life lessons concerning what God Our Father expects from us, in addition to His command to love Him and one another.  He set an example for all of us to follow.

We should all realize none of us are perfect. We are all sinners in some way, shape or form. Jesus said in another gospel story, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone" (John 8:7) and then what did they do? They stopped and thought about it. Eventually they all dropped their stones and slowly walked away, because everybody knew they were sinners too. What did He then say to the woman when she saw everyone was leaving the scene, thus saving her life? He told her, "Go forth and sin no more."  (John 8:11) 

He also told us if we expect forgiveness for our sins, we must also be ready to forgive others if they've sinned against us. Hopefully, we're all on a continuous journey, striving towards forgiveness, repentance and self-improvement, like the woman who was saved from being stoned to death.

If it helps, just consider the ways below, on how deal with personal attacks.....whether you were the cause of it, or were on the receiving end of it....






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