O Magazine writer Martha Beck is all about holding a grudge…for good reason. She writes:
Can love, forgiveness, and holding grudges really go together? Yes, they can — depending on how you define grudge.
A good grudge is simply an acknowledgment of another person’s foibles — it keeps you at a safe emotional distance from people who could mess up your life. Depending on the person, you might hold a grudge as light as a parasol or as solid as a titanium shield.
Beck’s essay goes on to describe the three types she feels are most worthy of a good self-protective grudge: gaslighters (people who make you feel creepy and self-doubting), les pitiables (people who take advantage of your pity) and Mr. Hydes (those given to sudden, inexplicable rages or personality shifts). In many ways Beck’s advocating a version of Gavin de Becker’s advice to always trust your instincts; if your interactions with someone feel wrong, you want to leave that person alone–or if you can’t avoid them completely, be vigilant. Holding a grudge, she says, is just a useful way of keeping your guard up.
Beck’s article hit home because, I confess, I am a big ol’ grudge holder. I have joked with my boss that, like Colbert, I keep ongoing On Notice and Dead To Me lists in my office. They feature people who I’ve caught lying or doing something shady during business dealings. This might seem judgmental, but in my professional life, that kind of judgment is essential. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…well, a healthy grudge means you won’t get that chance.
Like a lot of people, I have a few Gaslighters and Mr Hydes in my family, and they make Sharper family gatherings…interesting. When it comes to family conflict, we often get told to “move on” or “just let it slide off your back” rather than nurse a grudge. After all, you’re stuck with these people.
On one hand, this can be good advice; I don’t want to stay angry about some mean bullshit someone said at a holiday dinner 15 years ago. On other hand, a grudge has some real upside; it makes me way more inclined to avoid certain people. I’ve learned who to minimize contact with, and that has minimized the drama significantly. Sure, it’s a grudge, but it’s a self-protective one, and we should never have to apologize for being self-protective. As Martha Beck wisely points out:
If you’re in a constant mouth-foaming rage at someone, get away and get a shrink. But if you simply find your mood dipping whenever you encounter a certain person, I suggest holding a grudge.
Are you grudge-y? Do you think it’s helpful or hurtful..or both?