I read an article in the New York Times the other day entitled, “Let Go of Your Grudges. They’re Doing You No Good” by Tim Herrera ( May 19, 2019), and it struck me that many lawsuits are nothing more than unforgiven grudges.
The article starts with the question: “What is your oldest or most cherished grudge?” which the author asks others at parties. He gets some very interesting responses, often very detailed and personal. (Id.)
The real question though, is what does holding the grudge really do for us? What advantages does it provide? As you may suspect, the answer is somewhere between “no advantage and detrimental.”
In contrast, letting go of the grudge, or forgiving someone, does immense good. Many who have engaged in the act of forgiveness, suddenly feel “free”; as though a “cleansing” has occurred. ( Id. at 1-2.) As the article explains:
A 2006 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology as part of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, suggested that “skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms, and thereby may help reduce” the stress we put on our immune and cardiovascular systems. Further, a study published this year found that carrying anger into old age is associated with higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness. Another study from this year found that anger reduces our ability to see things from other people’s perspective.
“Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master. That’s the reality of it,” said Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project.
“Whenever you can’t grieve and assimilate what has happened, you hold it in a certain way,” he said. “If it’s bitterness, you hold it with anger. If it’s hopeless, you hold it with despair. But both of those are psycho-physiological responses to an inability to cope, and they both do mental and physical damage.”
He went on: “The hopelessness shuts down and dampens immune response, leads to some aspects of depression. Anger can have immune implications, it dysregulates the nervous system, it certainly is the most harmful emotion for the cardiovascular system. But you have this top point where something happened that I can’t really deal with, and often we do deal with it somehow, but unskillfully.” ( Id. at 2.)
In short, holding a grudge may evoke the fight-or-flight response. ( Id.) So, it is best to get rid of it. You do so by forgiving the offender. Doing so is for yourself, not the other person, and it is best to do it as soon after the “offense” has occurred as is possible. By forgiving, you will “free” yourself which does not mean that you must become best friends. You simply “forgive” and move on with your own life. (Id. at 3.)
As a means of obtaining this state of Nirvana, the moment the offense occurs, calm yourself down- take a deep breath, or pursue some other ”time out” so that you slow down and put some distance between you and the “offense.” ( Or, as we mediators say, “Go out to the balcony”.) (Id.)
Next, rather than portray yourself as the “victim”, become the hero. Reframe the story or as Mrs. Obama famously said, “When they go low, we go high”. Think about the positive things you have in life and accept the fact that life does not always turn as out we wish. Life does have its ups and downs, but we should always focus on “making lemonade out of lemons.” (Id.)
Learning forgiveness will take time and practice and effort. But, the big pay off is having a lot less stress and bad things to deal with in life.
So… getting back to grudges and lawsuits; there would probably be a lot less lawsuits if people did not hold on to their anger. Additionally, with respect to the lawsuits that did occur, many more would settle at mediation if people learned to let go of their anger and grudges and instead, forgave and moved on with the more important things in life!
… Just something to think about.
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