Letting Go of Grudges in Recovery

As it is well seen in the many counseling and therapy sessions at The Landing, it is hard to leave the past behind. Many of our clients who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction struggle greatly with grudges from past hurts. What we communicate to our clients is that when we experience resentment or anger because we think someone insulted or hurt us, we’re holding a grudge. Often we hold on very tightly, for a very long time. This keeps us from dealing with whatever happened and moving on. Holding grudges holds us back from our recovery and it’s important to address the root issue to keep old animosity from tainting your relationships today.

One of the biggest problems with grudges is that they color how we interpret the actions and intentions of other people. Holding a grudge is like wearing a set of glasses that focus you narrowly and exclusively on a person’s negative, selfish, and thoughtless behaviors. If we wear these glasses too often, we just can’t engage in the kind of empathy that is required to make a relationship work.

Anger Can Be A Solution

Like all emotions, anger is a signal for us to act and anger can motivate all kinds of very positive behaviors. When expressed appropriately, anger is incredibly useful, it helps us defend ourselves and have our needs met. Unfortunately, for many people our anger buttons are easily pushed and we’re quick to get mad, and quick to hold a grudge. Ultimately we end up suffering more than the person we’re angry at.

Finding Forgiveness

Many grudges and hurts stem from childhood hurts that are incredibly painful which our clients had no control over. Knowingly, a key idea behind forgiveness we routinely use to help our clients in these circumstances is that although they were not responsible for what happened to them or how other people hurt them, they were entirely responsible for overcoming and getting past the hurt. Getting past a grudge hinges on changing how we think about the events in our lives, and this is where forgiveness comes in.

Many people deplore the idea of forgiveness because they see it as a weakness or an agreement to forget what happened. This is not the case, and most experts on forgiveness recognize that it takes considerable courage to get past anger and resentment.

So, how do you do it? The first thing to recognize is that forgiveness is a process not an event. It’s better to say to yourself and others, “I am trying to forgive,” than, “I forgive.” The trying in this case means a conscious effort to let go of the negative feelings. With respect to a grudge, one way to try to do this is to consider understanding the other person’s perspective and perhaps his/her own weaknesses or limitations.

We can’t always get this kind of closure, but forgiveness provides a route for letting go of our grudges, and it’s as much of a gift to yourself as it is to others. If you’re holding a grudge, I hope these ideas are useful and help you move toward some forgiveness.