The Truth About Grudges
Written by William Rabior, ACSW
Teresa harbors a grudge against a physician in her small town. For many years he treated Teresa’s father for high blood pressure. When her dad died suddenly of a stroke, Teresa accused the doctor of not monitoring his blood pressure closely enough. Her sister reminds Teresa that their father lived alone and had become increasingly forgetful, even to the point of neglecting to take his daily medication. Teresa, however, insists that the doctor is primarily responsible for their dad’s death. Lately, she’s been talking about suing him for malpractice. She also tells others—even complete strangers—what a terrible doctor he is and that they should avoid him at all costs.
Martin has held a grudge against his brother Jules for fifteen years. He doesn’t speak to Jules or acknowledge his presence when they’re in the same room. At their mother’s funeral, rather than sit near his brother, Martin sat in the back of the church alone, ignoring the pleas of his wife and children to join them up front. When the pastor asked Martin what started it, Martin’s face went blank for a moment. Then he said, “I don’t remember exactly, but I do know he hurt me so badly that I can never forgive him.”
Gina holds a grudge toward a person who is dead—her high school principal. In her senior year, just before graduation, Gina was caught cheating on her history test. The principal refused to let her graduate and ordered her to repeat the class in summer school. Gina felt humiliated, hurt, and furious then and even now. “I hope he burns in hell for his lack of compassion,” she tells people twenty-five years later.
These three stories are only snapshots of long-lasting, unresolved grudges held by three people with no interest in getting over them. Their grudges have festered so long that eradicating them would be a formidable challenge. Fortunately, it wouldn’t be impossible.
What Is a Grudge?
A grudge is an attitude of resentment, ill will, and even hatred that arises from a real or imagined perception of being hurt, betrayed, or wronged.
Grudges form when we harden our heart and refuse to forgive after we’ve been damaged. Our refusal to forgive leads to bitterness and a desire to get even, which feeds the grudge—causing it to become stronger and often all-consuming.