We’ve all had times where somebody has said or done something that we felt really hurt by.
Maybe our partner makes an insensitive comment. Or a friend lets us down by not turning up to a special occasion. Maybe someone lies to us or betrays our confidence in some way. And whether or not that person meant to hurt us, the painful feelings we experience after their actions or words are very real for us.
But all too often, when somebody says or does something that hurts us we continue carrying around the hurt feelings, the anger and resentment inside of us for a long time. A habit that can sap our mental strength, strain our relationships and cause misunderstanding and conflict.
Hit play on the podcast below, or continue reading, to dig more into this topic. I share three ways you can start to let go of a grudge and shift to a more helpful approach, allowing you to move from resentment and hostility towards empowerment and inner peace.
Holding on to a grudge weighs us down
Often in life, when somebody says or does something that hurts us or angers us, we continue mulling over it in our heads over and over again. Fanning the flames of resentment and anger within us and keeping the heartache alive. And we can kind of harden our hearts into having a grudge with this person.
There might be the initial event that happened, but the rest we do within our own minds, telling ourselves a particular story about what they did to us and what kind of person they are.
Sometimes we might keep carrying a grudge with us from two, ten or even twenty years ago. Still walking around thinking about what that person said and what they did. Playing it over and over in the mind, getting more and more angry, thinking how wrong, how bad they are, and holding more and more ill-will towards them.
As we travel through life though, it’s important to remember that difficulty, challenge, misunderstandings and disagreements with other people are a pretty inevitable part of life. People are not perfect and they do make mistakes. Sometimes they will prioritise their needs over our own and do things we don’t like.
And we are also not angels. We of course will also make mistakes, let people down and hurt others from time to time. Even if it was not our intention to do so.
We can’t really avoid these things. But what we can do, is choose not to carry these grudges with us. To not carry this mental baggage with us wherever we go.
Letting go of a grudge does not mean being passive or ‘weak’
Letting the grudge go does not mean we won’t hold people accountable for their actions, have a direct and clear conversation about what happened and ask for change. Nor does it mean we will just be a doormat or put up with behaviour we don’t like or want.
On the contrary. We are better able to speak our needs, assert our boundaries and take wise, empowered action when we let go of the grudge, take a higher perspective and focus on solutions, mutual understanding and personal growth.
We can begin to let go of grudges in three ways
1. See the situation with understanding
We might, for example, try to understand why that person might have done the things that they did. Try to see things from their perspective and think about what might have been going on for them. The other person is likely to be seeing things quite differently to you. What might they be thinking or feeling about this situation? What are their needs and concerns? Their fears?
Be aware. Fixating on the wrongs and harms done by others really tends to ramp up your stress and anger, and make you more fixed and rigid in your view of things. It makes it harder for you to remember the good qualities in the other person and can skew your ability to own your part in the situation. And owning your own part is really important. So perhaps consider if there has been any part you, too, have played in the situation.
2. Make space for imperfection
Make room for the people in your life to have flaws and moments when they are not at their best. Of course, this doesn’t mean excusing unacceptable behaviour and just putting up with things that are harmful for us. But it does mean simply recognising that none of us are perfect and seeing if you can bring a bit more acceptance to that.
We all have our own unique conditioning from childhood that plays out in unhelpful ways despite our best intentions. We all have flaws and faults. Times when we are selfish. Times when we are out of step with our integrity. Times when we lie or treat people as if they don’t matter. Act in ways where we don’t care as much about the impact on others or blow our responsibilities. Can you allow room for others to be imperfect, even as you protect your own boundaries and look out for your own needs? Parents, partners, friends, and co-workers are not perfect, just like us. It’s a part of being human.
3. Make the choice to forgive them
Forgiveness is not meant to negate, deny, or minimise what happened.
It’s simply a choice to let go of carrying that hostility and heaviness we’re hanging on to. It allows us to open the tight fist of anger, open up a bit of inner space and start to see through the eyes of understanding.
If it feels helpful or possible, you might like to have a kind clear conversation with someone about what happened, and what you would like to be different next time.
In doing these steps we see things more clearly and objectively, and we can transform hostility into compassion and inner strength. And we open up that inner space in which we may be able to understand the other person and ourselves better.
If you would like support in preparing for a chat with someone about what happened, here are two helpful posts: A 5 step checklist to prepare for a difficult conversation & A four step framework for having difficult conversations.
This week’s mental strength practice: Soften resentment and grudges
If you’re new to this podcast and blog, each week I give an actionable practice for the week ahead to grow your mental strength. So, the invitation to practice this week is this. If you feel hurt or angry from the actions of another person. Or you are aware you’ve been holding on to something for some time, make letting go of the grudge your intention. It’s not always easy, but see if you can let go of your hurt and animosity bit by bit, practising with the three steps listed here in this post. For as you forgive the other, you’ll find peace in yourself.
Thanks for being here, we are all practising this together. I love thinking about how we as a community are transforming hatred and hurt into healing and hope. I wish you all the best with it this week.
Accelerate your mental strength
If you’re finding these practices helpful to your life, and you’re ready to take your mental strength to the next level, I invite you to join me in Headstrong. It’s my 8-week intensive mental strength program. Headstrong offers the best of everything I’ve learned in over two decades of mental strength training and teaching. It’s designed to get rapid transformational results and arm you with powerful tools and skills that will last a lifetime. This program will help you not only survive but thrive – even in tough times.
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