Monday, April 8, 2013

Going Beyond Grudges and Laying Them To Rest

Probably one of the most difficult things to deal with in life are grudges that we hold against another person and the ones they hold against us. However difficult they may be we seem to be able to justify the grudges we hold and not even see them as such, after all we aren't the ones who initiated this feud, in fact it was the other person who did or said such and such a thing against us! We are only defending ourselves aren't we? Are we suppose to allow others to ride rough shod over us or make our life miserable? After everything we've done for them and they do this to us or bad mouth us?

We do seem justified in holding grudges against someone though we may not see it as that. We think ourselves better than that. We tell ourselves, "See? I've not said one bad thing to them even after what they did to me." Right. The reason I've not said anything bad is because I haven't said anything to them at all! I've avoided them, shunned them and pretended they didn't exist. That isn't releasing a grudge but masking it into the unrecognizable so that even we don't see it for what it is anymore.

We go merrily along in life and one day memories flood back about a certain person we had a grudge against and the bottom falls out of our own self-deception. We roll back the tape and begin recalling conversations or arguments we've had with them, or see so clearly the things they did to us that initiated the grudge that we supposedly let go in the first place. Then, within those memories we begin to make up "conversations" with this other person and most times than not, the script that we give to the other person is worse than the original offense. We continue to imagine conversations that never existed and let ourselves feel even more justified in believing that it was the other persons fault to begin with. We feed on it. We eat from this trough of newly imagined offenses until our hearts become so bloated that any affection or love that we held for this person seems to be squeezed out. As one person said to me recently, it is a sick way to live. I agree.

We take pleasure in grudges. Yet, it is a perverted pleasure that is self-destructive. Why should I give in first? Why should I let them think they are right and I am wrong? Pride rears its ugly head once again.Our pride hates having to give in first, to lead the way in righting a wrong especially if we've been wronged.
Reconcile? Sure, if they apologize first. If every time we are wronged we wait for the other person to apologize before reconciling, then most times we'll have a long wait. Grudges can become so entrenched within our hearts that vengeance against the offending person starts to creep in. It doesn't have to mean a physical retaliation but even a sort of yearning that one day they will regret it. One day they'll be sorry for what they did to us and if not in this life then in the next one.  Wow. Do we understand those implications? Really understand? If we allow our grudge to get to that point, what we are basically saying is "Yep, next stop hell for them." or some major, painful purging in purgatory.

If there was anyone that could have justified holding a grudge it was Christ. He was human as well as divine. We know he was tempted in the desert. Satan also tempted him through Peter which prompted the reply, "Get thee behind me Satan!" from Christ. Can  you imagine what played through His mind as he was on His death march to Golgotha? Can you just imagine Satan's little whisper of a voice inside our Lord's head saying,  

"Why bother with these ingrates? Are they really worth your life? Your going to die an excruciating death and for what? Them? THEY are the ones that offended. THEY are the ones that should be punished not you. You know that don't you? Do you really think they'll appreciate what it is you are doing for them never mind understand? You know they'll continue to offend your father so why let them off the hook? You've done nothing to offend these people and look at what they are about to do to you. Do it some other way. Wait til they are sorry and ask for forgiveness. You realize how weak you'll look to them if you die as a common criminal?"

As was said, Christ is a man with feelings we all share, the same emotions, the same temptations that we have. Yet what did he do? He set aside what ever he may have felt or had been tempted to feel and continued to do the will of His father. He went through the motions despite the emotions.

When memories flood back and we think uncharitable thoughts of a person who may have wronged us it becomes easier and easier to have these bad thoughts about someone if we do not fight them as soon as they enter our minds. It is practiced behavior and with practice comes perfection. However, the opposite is true also. Once at confession I told my priest of these thoughts that kept coming back and how difficult it was for me to fight them off. I had confessed my grudge a long time ago and in order to make amends for having held this grudge was to have a Mass said for this person. They had died a few years earlier and there was no way I could now reconcile with them. I prayed for them and still do yet the memories, the conversations kept coming and never relented. I kept fighting them off and many times to no avail.

The priest told me that memories can be a blessing or a curse. We were given memories and within them are good and bad things. He suggested that when past offenses done by another show themselves in our memories, we need to think of the other person in terms of love. To do things in terms of love and to say things in the same way. It is so very hard to do, yet as I wrote above where it becomes easier and easier to think badly of someone when we allow ourselves this so called luxury, the reverse is also true. The more and more we try to think of the other person in terms of love it then becomes a learned behavior  and it becomes easier to love. We may never rid ourselves completely of uncharitable thoughts, but we can keep from dwelling on them with thoughts of love. Though we may feel as hypocrites at first, we need to set that aside as Christ did and go through the motions despite the emotions.

You go through the motions despite the emotions. You do what you know is right despite what you feel at the time. Grudges play heavily on our emotions and if we let them control our lives and the love we should have towards someone then we lose. And if we continue to hold a grudge against someone who is no longer here...we lose big time. 

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