Few things, maybe nothing, is more valuable to give up than a grudge. More typically thought to be a gift to the person who violated one’s trust or virtue, to give up a grudge is much more a gift to oneself. Even better, each person is entirely in control of whether or not she gifts herself by forgiving.
First, let’s be clear that forgiving is very different from forgetting. The value of learning can be retained while still forgiving. Once hurt by an unkind word or action it’s important to remember the feeling that was generated and who spoke or acted. To fail to do so is to make repetition more likely. To review the situation and avoid the circumstances that led to the harm and hurt is to gain wisdom. To forgive is to gain freedom.
How is it so that forgiving, i.e. giving up a grudge, is gaining freedom? In the same way that ridding our body of infection frees us to use our energy positively. Our marvelous physiological system will marshal resources to defend itself from microbe attack. It is very efficient in borrowing from other parts of the system to concentrate antibodies at an infection so it is first confined and then eliminated. While that occurs our capacity for interaction and paving a better future is reduced. Even the best chicken soup is secondary to rest in efficient recovery.
Holding a grudge retains the emotions and psychic energy of the violation. We are capable, in sad fact, of replaying the initial violation and feeding its grotesqueness with our imagination to make the grudge even worse than that inflicted by the perpetrator. Forgiving releases the infection and allows us to use our emotional and psychic energy for gain and a better future.
Nowhere is the beauty of this gift is told more forcefully than in Think No Evil: Inside the Story of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting...and Beyond by Jonas Beiler and Shawn Smucker. One of the first acts of the Amish community after the atrocity of losing their little girls to the bullets of a madman, was to extend their forgiveness and their condolences to the gunman’s widow. She was not Amish but the continued actions demonstrating their complete forgiveness over the ensuing months made her grief and their grief more bearable. More importantly, in the long run, each was sooner able to focus emotional and psychic energy on a better future. The widow remarried. She remained in the same community. Her thriving was a source of joy and pride for the Amish community who, more remarkably, practiced forgiving the madman shooter, too.
Stop the grudge infection. Give it up by forgiving and allow your emotional energy to make a better future.