How To Forgive & Not Hold A Grudge
When someone does or says something that really hurts your feelings, you might automatically think that you will never be able to forgive them for what they've done. If you hold a grudge, though, you are probably hurting yourself more than the other person, according to experts.
"Holding a grudge essentially means that you no longer trust the person and you are barring them from entry in your life," Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. You can't always just move on if someone has wronged you, but that doesn't mean that you have to actively stay angry with them either. "While it can be very healthy to set boundaries with someone after they have hurt us, holding a grudge adds an extra layer where you may feel like you’re putting a death grip between you and the other person," she says. "Ultimately, this exhausts you in the process and grudges often lead to bitterness." You might decide that it's best for you to no longer include that person in your life, and that's totally OK. But just make sure that they're no longer hanging around in the form of your grudge.
Here are some tips for getting better at forgiveness instead of holding grudges, according to experts.
1. Acknowledge Your Part
If you have a grudge against someone, you might find yourself stewing over all of the wrong or plain mean choices they made in the situation. But more often than not, no one person is totally to blame. "In most cases, we’ve actually played a role in the conflict," Jacob Brown, a psychotherapist with a certification in grief counseling, tells Bustle. "They may have acted much worse, but we’re rarely totally blameless." Stop and consider whether you could have made different choices in the incident. By recognizing that you may have played a part, no matter how small, you might be able to let go of some of your pent-up anger.
2. Break The Thought Habit
"Sometimes grudges can be obsessive thoughts," Brown says. "We’d like to stop, but we just can’t seem to get out of the repetitive cycle." If the grudge is something you find yourself thinking about very often, try using a physical technique to get your mind back on track. Think of a calming or pleasant memory that you can clearly visualize, he says. Then, put a rubber band around your wrist. Whenever you realize that you're thinking about your grudge, snap the rubber band so that it hits your wrist. "This creates a short break in the thought process," Brown says.
3. Allow Yourself To Heal
If you're having trouble forgiving someone and moving on, it could be helpful to reframe the situation as an opportunity for you to let yourself heal. "We often feel like holding a grudge can be a way to punish the person on the receiving end, and while it may be painful for that person, we are ultimately hurting our own wellbeing in the process," Cook says. "Holding on to that much anger can be toxic and hurts you just as much in the process." Decide to try to think of letting go of your anger as an act of self-love, and you might find it easier to do.
4. Invest In Good Relationships
If someone in your life has wronged you deeply and you have a hard time moving on, try to surround yourself with folks who help you feel like your best self. "Be with people who instill hope again," Cook says. "When someone has hurt us, it can be disillusioning and we tend to think others will be the same way." But avoid this temptation, so that you give yourself the chance to be treated the way you want to be treated. "Allowing yourself to be with new people who show you better ways of being can help you heal in the process," she says.
5. Try To Understand The Person
Good people can definitely make mistakes, so just because someone made a bad choice doesn't mean that they are necessarily entirely negative. Really solidify this in your mind by trying to separate the person from the action they took that hurt you. "When we hold grudges, we see the person as 'bad,'" Cook says. "The reality is that every human has hurt others at some point in their lives." Of course, that doesn't mean that you should give everyone a free pass if they did something truly terrible to you. But if the transgression was minor, thinking of all of their good qualities might bring you some peace.
6. Use Empathy
"As hard as it might be, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes that you feel angry with," Cook says. "If you can form some understanding for why they did what they did (perhaps they had a difficult childhood, they were desperate or insecure, etc.), you may be able to soften that grudge," she says. In fact, you might even want to sit down with them with an open heart and ask them why they made the choice that hurt you so deeply. You might not leave with all of the answers you want, but you could walk away with a deeper understanding of who they are.
7. Accept The Disappointment As Part Of Life
"Much of our suffering in life is related to our failure to accept what is happening, what we see, what we hear, and what we experience and feel," Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, a licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. "Learning how to invite in whatever it is we are actually experiencing can help us live happier and healthier lives." In an ideal world, you might not have to experience any anger or pain. But that's not reality. Think about the difference between trying not to get swept away by an oncoming wave or riding it on a surfboard, Scott-Hudson says. This can be a helpful way to imagine yourself adapting and surviving as things don't go quite your way.
If you're someone who tends to hold grudges, don't assume that you have to live with that kind of resentment forever. While you shouldn't ignore it when someone hurts you, using tactics to let anger go can help you feel more at peace.