This week I have discovered something new: podcasts. I am well aware that these are not a new invention, but for some reason I have only just decided to start listening to them. For those who haven’t heard of them, they are FAB. They are basically like a TV series, but to listen to instead of watch, and most of them are free on iTunes.
I have been listening to all sorts (history, food, lifestyle), but my favourite so far has to be Glamour magazine’s ‘Hey it’s OK’ podcast, which comes out weekly. The podcast is so relaxed, and the topics include everything from more serious subjects such as Brexit and Trump, to the more fun and the potentially more enjoyable (ok definitely more enjoyable) Glamour’s 100 sexiest men poll. But, having had a slight podcast ‘binge’ one night last week, the episode which really resonated with me was one which discussed the subject of holding grudges.
I am entirely lacking in the ability to hold a grudge- I just cannot do it. I hate confrontation of any kind, and I would much rather just smile, move on, and forget about it than waste hours of time and energy being angry: for me, it’s just not worth it.
When the families of the victims of the Charleston shootings spoke to the killer, Dylan Roof, you would have expected them to be torn up by hatred, overcome with rage. Instead, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, one of Roof’s victims, told him “I forgive you”. This show of strength in the face of absolute tragedy would be incomprehensible to many of us. And yet there have been many more cases like this, where people who have experienced the worst that life can give (murders of relatives, rape) have somehow found the strength to forgive.
These people all have different reasons for forgiving, but in many cases they say that it is not until they have forgiven that they can begin to move on: as late psychologist C R Snyder quoted “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different”. By holding a grudge, we are holding on to the pain of the past. Forgiving and forgetting allows a weight to be lifted from our shoulders.
And that is exactly what holding a grudge is: a weight on your shoulders. An unnecessary, heavy weight which weaves its way in to all aspects of your life, feeding negative energy to your brain. There is proof that holding grudges can be harmful for your health: high levels of suppressed anger are linked to increased risks of coronary heart disease, particularly in older men (Men’s Health, 2013). There is also evidence that people who hold grudges are more prone to ulcers, high blood pressure, and headaches.
As well as physical health, holding grudges can also be detrimental to mental health, too. It causes stress, makes it harder to think clearly, and harder to sleep. This means we find it harder to look at things from a rational perspective, come up with new ideas, or negotiate. Also, people suffering from stress are more likely to smoke or develop bad eating habits, which can lead to a whole other host of health issues.
Holding grudges, evidently, is not good for your body or your mind. Personally, I don’t hold grudges because, quite frankly, I want an easy life. I find that I am much less anxious and stressed, and in turn much happier, when I am not angry at other people. In my my mind, it is a waste of time to hold grudges for things that have already happened and cannot be changed. All it does it clog up my mind with toxic thoughts, which in turn have a negative impact on my life.
My favourite quote from the podcast which I mentioned before sums this up perfectly:
“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick”
This is exactly it: by holding grudges we want to punish the people we are angry at, but in actual fact the people we end up damaging the most are ourselves. Learning how to forgive, therefore, is the way forward. Life is too short.