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Getting Over the Past: Why Holding Grudges Are Bad For You

We’re all guilty of holding onto a grudge (or two) at some point in time. This penchant for holding-onto-the-past may come in handy during fights (“I know I forgot to walk the dog, but remember when you forgot my birthday!?”), but that doesn’t make it okay. Besides, this trouble with letting-things-go can be harmful to not only our relationships, but to our health as well.

medium_446013887Grudges Make You Sick. Grudges, like all things that stress us out, can be unhealthy for our bodies, too. Everyone knows stress can cause a host of ailments: high blood pressure, elevated heart rates, and even hair loss. And as any grudge-holder can tell you, constantly thinking about a person or event that made you mad or sad only worsen your feelings and makes you even more anxious. Being unable to release anger weighs down on our minds and immune systems.

As a whole, people who hold grudges are more prone to sickness than people who don’t. In a study conducted by the University of Tennessee participants were asked to recount stories of betrayal while their heart rates and blood pressure levels were measured. Researchers found that people who forgave more easily had lower numbers. They also made fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Similarly, in a 2009 paper the Department of Psychology at Medical College of Georgia concluded that, “In a population-based survey, bearing grudges is associated with a history of pain disorders, cardiovascular disease, and stomach ulcers.”

Grudges obviously affect far more than our relationships! However, just knowing the harmful side effects holding onto a grudge can have doesn’t make it any easier to forgive or forget. How do we learn to unload our anger and resentment?

  • Finding Forgiveness. To live peaceful and healthy lives we must rid them of grudges. This is easier said than done, but there are steps we can take to move toward forgiveness and peace of mind.
  • Identify the problem. You must figure out what’s making you dwell on the problem in the first place. Talking it out with an unbiased friend or writing it out can help you to sort everything through and deal with your emotions head on.
  • Clarify Forgiveness. What does forgiveness mean to you? Everyone’s definition is somewhat different. For you it could mean finding inner peace with the situation or repairing broken relationships. In whatever form forgiveness comes, remember that it’s not the same as forgetting, which is something that may never happen. The memory might last, but if you’ve truly forgiven someone, its ties to anger should be cut.

Acknowledge Its Negative Effects. Is your resentment alienating you from others? Has it kept you pursuing new things? Acknowledging a grudge’s negative effects on your life can make holding onto one seem even more pointless. Remember: There’s no point in holding onto a grudge; it doesn’t change or affect anything but your wellbeing, health, and future.
Releasing or forgiving a grudge can take a great deal of time and effort, but it’s worth the relief and peace of mind. If something seems too hard to let go of, just think of all the time and energy you’ve wasted by simply being angry. If that isn’t something to get mad about, I don’t know what is.

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  1. Pingback: From A Wildflower, - Why Holding Grudges Is Bad For You

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