Grudge Match

24 Jul

Dear LetterBalm: I have a personal problem that I have trouble dealing with. It’s just too much for me to handle. I grew up in a loud, opinionated family with a lot of siblings who jumped on each other if anyone made the slightest mistake. They don’t forgive, ever. Over the years, I’ve found it harder and harder to forgive people, whether family, friends, co-workers, even people helping me in shops and behind counters. I hold onto a grudge for far too long. The latest thing happened with one of my good friends, someone I’ve known for years. A few months ago, she did something that really hurt me – she revealed a confidence in front of people who really mattered to me. I’m having trouble letting this go. I confronted her, and she accused me of “making too much” of it. Now, I’m brusque with her, rebuffing invitations (pretty rude about it, too) and making it clear I don’t want anything to do with her. I hate myself; I have to get out of this downward spiral. What can I say to her? And, how can I help myself?

–Stewing in Santa Fe

You may not realize it, but you’ve already taken the first big step in dissipating this resentment: You’ve acknowledged the grudge and how corrosive it is in your life. You might consider behavioral therapy to help you cope in general. But now you must look at this situation with absolute clarity. You need to prepare yourself to share your feelings constructively with your friend, frame her transgression, put yourself in her place (yes, Ms. L.B. knows that will be hard for you) and accept the reality and let it go. It may mean you must make an apology first, something you’re not used to, but something which will go a long way to help you forgive and bring your friend back into your life. Have a quiet, private talk with her thusly:

Bonnie, things have been tense between us, and I want to clear the air. I don’t like what’s happening – you’re too important to me. But I have to ask you to listen to what I’m going to say. When you revealed what I told you in confidence, it was a big deal for me. Can you understand that I felt hurt and betrayed? I lashed out and held it against you all this time. What you don’t know is that I grew up in a family that still holds grudges – it’s standard operating procedure for me. And, it’s corrosive, I know that. In fact, I’ve started some behavioral therapy to break this pattern. But as far as we’re concerned, I want you to know that I’m working hard on forgiveness, on letting grudges go. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.

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