Four Steps to Letting Go of a Grudge (and Why You Should)
Grudges are tricky things. When we have been hurt by someone, we tend to brood and obsess over it. We keep it in our minds and hearts. Most of the time, we do not know what to do with the hurt and the pain. We want to make them feel the same way they made us feel. This is human nature - all of us have experienced this at some point in our lives. After all, the other person deserves to be hurt if they hurt you, right? Well, this might be true. The person who hurt you was wrong - there is no question about that. But will it help you to punish them? The answer is no. By carrying around a grudge, you are not hurting the other person. You are actually hurting yourself. Grudges hold you back from being who you were meant to be. They bring anxiety and pain beyond the hurt you already have experienced. When you hold onto a grudge, you actually begin to turn into the other person - someone who is capable of hurting, not helping. Knowing this, you probably want to get rid of your grudges. But how? Here are four steps to letting go of a grudge.
1. Know Yourself
In order to let go of a grudge, you need to understand yourself. So interview yourself about the situation. What are/were you feeling in the moment? Why did the other person's actions hurt so much? What do you need and want in a friendship or relationship? How were those needs not met? Do not ignore or push down your emotions. Instead, sit with them. Let them exist. An understanding therapist can help you recognize and accept these emotions. Go a step further by trying to imagine the emotions of the other person. Can you put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why they did what they did? This kind of assessment helps you remember that all people involved are, well, just that - people! Both you and the person who hurt you are human beings who have needs and who make mistakes. The more you know yourself, the more you will be able to understand what is really going on in the situation.
2. Protect Yourself
Letting go of a grudge does not mean that you have to stay in a dangerous or hurtful situation. In fact, one of the best ways you can move on and leave the past in the past is by protecting yourself from further harm. You cannot fully heal if you keep getting wounded, right? In order to let go of a grudge, you must take steps to keep the hurtful situation from happening again. There are several ways to do this. If it is a first-time offense (or if is not of a high degree), consider sitting down with the other person to talk about it. Express how hurt you were by their actions (be specific!). Avoid the urge to overwhelm them with blame; rather, focus on how they can do better. Lay down boundaries to keep yourself from getting hurt again. If the person has been hurting you over a long period of time, even after discussing it, you may want to cut ties. Giving yourself space from the hurtful person will give you the opportunity to heal. A compassionate professional can help you decide what kind of relationship you want with the other person going forward.
3. Free Yourself
Finally, you find yourself in a place where you can actually let go of the grudge you have been holding onto. You cannot hurry the process, of course; but after you have taken time to really know yourself and protect yourself, you must move on. Remember, you cannot control the other person. You can only control your own actions. And holding on to that grudge will only weigh you down in every part of life. Why continue to obsess over a person who hurt you? Why not shed that emotional burden and be free? By holding a grudge, you have let the other person control you, whether they know it or not. So it is time to be the boss of your own life and choose forgiveness. Write your hurts in a journal and then counter them with your own statements. For example, you might write, "He said I was ugly. I know I am beautiful" or "She said I was not a good friend. I know that I was only exhausted overwhelmed and I am learning to give myself more times of rest." At the bottom of the page, write: "I forgive them." Or, you can brainstorm with a trusted therapist to find another method that works for you. Release the hurt. It no longer has to be a part of your life. Of course, healing will still take time. But when you let go, you allow the wound to close and begin that healing process. You are free!
4. Grow Yourself
You may think that the work is done when you decide to let go of the grudge. But the best is yet to come! Remember that you cannot control the other person's actions (which means they may never apologize, and that's okay), but you can control your own actions. And now that you are free, you can grow into who you were meant to be. Nothing is holding you back. What can you do to grow yourself and live your best life free of the grudges you once held? What dreams do you have? What goals would you like to reach? Leave the grudge in the past because you are not that person anymore. You are growing into a newer, stronger, happier version of yourself. This is your time. The hurt of the past will control you no longer.
Did you notice that all four steps had to do with yourself? Were you surprised that you do not have to change the other person in order to let go of a grudge? If so, you are not alone. As a mental health therapist who specializes in grief, anxiety, and pain like yours, I know how hard it is to let go and not try to fix or change the other person. But the truth is, the only person you can change is yourself. And letting go of grudges will help you do that. For the better. Contact me and begin your journey to freedom now.