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Remember the last time you were wronged? Someone did something that you didn’t like and it was so inexcusable that you vowed to hate them forever. Hey, they probably deserved it anyways. Every time you think of them, you imagine how good it would feel to push a hot poker into their eyes, kick them in the groin, or perhaps even run them over with your car. Of course, you would never actually do those things, but it is sure great to stew over it for a while. Right?
The dirt: I hate him/her for doing that to me
Did you know that according to the Center for Disease Control, over two-thirds of our country is overweight or obese? It’s quite the epidemic and it’s destroying lives. Actually, I was just referring to our physical state. The picture is much worse when we consider how much weight we have in our minds. Airplanes may have weight restrictions on how much luggage you can have, but our brains do not. We load ‘em good and wonder why we can’t manage to get anywhere. We’re talking about grudges.
“Even if you are strong enough to move mountains of hate, imagine how much faster and further you can go without carrying it on your back.”
Let’s take a dive into the weight of the past. The mental weight of holding grudges is not unlike our physical weight. Too much of it and it will eventually kill us. Like bodyfat, it’s heavy, it’s unhealthy, it only affects us, and causes a host of other conditions while robbing us of life. Sounds gruesome, doesn’t it?
He ain’t heavy (yes, he is)
When our problems (past or future) weigh on us, it’s tough to get things done in the present. Holding onto the past while trying to move forward into the future is like trying to drive L.A to New York with your car tied to the Hollywood sign. You’re not going to get too far. At best it requires a tremendous amount of energy to carry the pile of grudges along with all other tasks you wish to accomplish. At worst, it would be like running in quicksand while holding a Volkswagen. Even if you are strong enough to move mountains of hate, imagine how much faster and further you can go without carrying it on your back.
The proverbial soda
Did you know the average soda drinker consumes an extra 130,000 calories per year at a beverage cost of nearly $1000? Replacing the soda with water would result in a 37-lb weight loss for the year and and an extra grand in your pocket. If you think I’m suggesting that soda is unhealthy, you’re wrong. I’m proclaiming it outright that it’s bad and had it never been invented, we wouldn’t miss it. What if holding a grudge had a very similar effect on our minds?
Consider the attitude of a grudge. It’s always negative and hurtful, towards the object of our grudge or unto ourselves. It consumes us from the inside like a corrosive phosphoric-acid based caramel-colored carbonated drink (soda!). From the inside, it has access to affect our mental state first, which in turn expands into every other area of our life. Negative attitudes foster negative behaviors/actions, which lead to poor results, creating yet more anger to feed the negative attitude. Over time, we tend to downward spiral into an angry mess.
Furthermore, the time and energy spent on a grudge is like the money spent on soda. Once spent, it cannot be used for any other purpose. Imagine what you could do with an extra $1000 in your pocket and an extra hour in your day? What would that be worth to you? What if putting down the soda and dropping the grudge both have instant and long-lasting positive effects on our overall health?
Look, a squirrel!
The opportunity cost of a grudge cannot be overstated. Time (a.k.a Life) is lost to it, energy is spent on it, and we miss out on the chance to do something productive and proactive with our lives. It’s like trying to drive 80 MPH down the highway staring into the rear view mirror. We not only will miss our destination, we’ll likely kill ourselves and won’t even see it coming.
All while we fuel the furnace of our grudge, we lose focus on that which is important. Focusing on the right things is one of the secrets of the successful. Any time spent on those things that don’t serve you, that don’t help you advance in life or business, is literally throwing away life. Given this, how exactly is that grudge helping you to progress?
It’s all you
Here’s the cruelest part of all. All this ire, anger, and hatred you feel has absolutely no effect on the target of your rage. Have you ever considered that this person (1) may not know you even hold this grudge, (2) forgot that you are holding this grudge, or (3) don’t care that you hold the grudge? This means while you stew over your issue, they couldn’t care less and are moving along living their own lives. This negative, debilitating experience is only affecting you and you alone. It’s like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It’s not only ludicrous, but you’re dead.
Power to forgive
If you’re tired of waking up every day and pouring salt and lemon juice on your wounds, adding sandbags to your already-heavy day, and dragging around the dead body of every person you wish were dead, then it’s time to forgive. It won’t be easy, but then again how easy was life a sentence ago? The only difference is that forgiveness reveals the door of opportunity. It’s not a gimme, for you still have to open the lock and walk through (discussed in other episodes), but without knowing where the door is in the first place, there’s little chance you’ll stumble upon it.
One thing that will make this process of forgiveness easier is to drop the ego down a few notches. We tend to think very highly of ourselves and not highly enough of others. This “holier than thou” attitude gets in our way of understanding others. Whereas we believe we’d never do such a thing, in their predicament, perhaps we would have indeed done the same. Imagine offering the same understanding to others as we would hope they’d have for us.
The next time a car cuts you off to get ahead of the line, instead of getting the road rage, consider that it may be a father with his sick 4-year old daughter and they’re racing to the hospital. How would your understanding and forgiveness of the situation change? How grateful would you feel that YOUR 4-year old is healthy and happy? Think of how that gratitude would then spill over into your entire day. Not only would you not have ruined your entire day by saying or doing something you’d regret, but you would have actually added joy to those around you.
A Few Fundamentals of Forgiveness
- Find one positive in the situation – It’s easy to focus on the wrong and the hurt. But if you had to dig and find one positive that came out of the situation, what would it be? Perhaps it led to you taking an action you might not have taken otherwise, resulting in something positive. Or maybe it revealed someone’s true character and you’re glad you found out sooner rather than later.
- Thank that person (even silently) for that gift – This one may seem hard, but give thanks to that person just for that one or two good nuggets that were found during the experience. You don’t have to send them a gift card or buy them a car, just a simple acknowledgement that without them, you might have missed out.
- Forgive them – Let the appreciation of number one and the action of number two allow you to forgive them. Maybe it wasn’t just because they were trying to hurt you. Perhaps they even regret it but are too ashamed to let you know. Whatever the case, let them off the hook. Forgiveness is the best gift you can give yourself.
- Move on – Let it go. Live and let live. Se la vie. Yes, it sounds crazy, but just let it go. No, it’s not hard to do, just toss it into the trash can. Like stubbing your toe on the bed frame first thing in the morning, once the momentary pain is gone, keep walking until you forget you ever stubbed it.
Forgiving doesn’t have to mean forgetting. You can remember the event and the lesson it taught you, but the event itself and the hot emotions don’t have to drag you down forever. The Nile of negativity it puts through your veins does not have to control your attitude, happiness or your future.
The good news is that if you’ve been in a bad collision and still drive a car or if you’ve ever experienced a painful breakup yet are in a relationship now, then you understand the power of forgiveness. Whether it be forgiving yourself or another person, it takes a far higher level of strength to forgive than to begrudge. At the end of the day, it’s the freeing of this poison that will allow for the freedom of all else.
“Love me or hate me, both are in my favor. If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart. If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.”
— William Shakespeare
I dare you to share this with 7 folks that can’t stop talking about all the awful things that have happened to them. It will almost certainly save their life. I appreciate all of you for sharing time with me. Meet you at the top because the bottom’s way too crowded.