Americans have never been big on Forgiving. I’m not sure if this is also true in other countries. We simply hold on to grudges indefinitely even after resolving the problem with the offending party or by them changing their ways. I have been guilty of this myself and I know many people who seem never able to let go. It hampers both offender and offended from getting on with their lives and perhaps later forming meaningful relationships.
But holding grudges is much more. It is like carrying added unnecessary burdens that eventually take a toll on one’s character and peace of mind. It makes for a bitter as well as miserable person who continually seeks a pound of flesh due to past transgressions and can never have peace. There is a lack of closure. So all the weight of all our grudges and resentments and even hate against others keep on accumulating weighing heavier and heavier on our minds making us feeling unfulfilled.
But grudges also clouds one’s judgment to the truth. It causes us to think the worst of people and prevents us from seeing any other point of view other than our own. Such prejudices cause people to make mistakes in judgement that could have serious consequences and hampers dialogue.
Grudges actually stems from our primitive survival instinct to learn of dangers so we will remember them and not repeat mistakes that could jeopardize survival. But it can go amok in our civilized societies where forgiveness is in such short supply and perceived dangers are less of a survival issue. I know of people who have so much resentment and animosity towards certain people, corporations, and political leader that whatever they do seems evil. It does not occur to them that they are not pure evil and could have other less self-serving motives for doing things. I am not saying that there aren’t people who are mostly motivated by greed and self-serving motives but such negative generalizations are far too common.
So old wounds fester while new ones open up like a cancer destroying the spirit. Happiness is something all people want. But happiness is about having no resentments. In a UN World Happiness Report of 150 nations the U.S. ranked 16 based upon 1) GDP per capita, 2) healthy life expectancy, 3) having someone to count on, 4) perceived freedom to make life choices, 5) freedom from corruption, and 6) generosity, in spite of our affluence and high standard of living. Leading the list are Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden. These nations are the most worry-free countries.
So the question to ask is what is the point of having long-term grudges? It results in more unhappiness and bitterness than satisfaction. It seems that it is better to forgive than carry on a running grudge. This actually has a very religious and wise bases in guiding one’s life. Forgiving and letting go of such unnecessary burdens opens up all kinds of possibilities for a much more fulfilling and burden free life.