Dear Barb—Grudges

Dear Barb:

I am from a large family, and we have experienced a lot of dysfunction and estrangement between family members.  Many of my immediate family members hold grudges and don’t speak to each other for years at a time.  Cousins, siblings, even grandparents have been estranged.  I don’t understand why people act like this.  Our family has been torn apart because of something that only lives in the heart and mind of the person holding the grudge.  I can’t believe this is healthy,  mentally or physically, for them.  At times I have tried to get family members to talk to each other and they end up not talking to me.  I can understand getting angry about something but to never discuss it again, how does that resolve anything or help either person?  Stuck in the middle – Tessa.

Hey Tessa:

The phrase “holding a grudge” comes from the Old French word grouchier, which means to grumble and is related to the English word “grouch.” English and German words have similar meanings that translate into “to complain” “to wail” “to grumble” and to cry out.”

I’m sorry your family is experiencing this.  Many people hold a grudge as a way to resolve issues.  For some it is a defense mechanism and is often passed through generations, but rarely accomplishes anything—as indicated in your letter.  Holding grudges only causes estrangement and distance, as shown in your family, and negatively impacts a person’s mental and physical health.  Talking to a counsellor will assist to find ways to work through these issues and adopt better coping skills.  It is important to not jump to conclusions; put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  This will help you to understand that perhaps what they did had nothing to do with you.  They could have meant something entirely different than what you perceive.  Their reaction may have nothing to do with you, but rather they may have had something else going on at the time and took it out on you, which in itself is not right, but it shouldn’t be something to be held onto.  Effective communication is the most valuable coping skill that can be achieved.

I’m going to end with a quote:

So many people get involved with carrying grudges and having these moral battles with people, where they cast themselves as the righteous and the other guy is the dirtbag.  They waste tons of energy on it; create all kinds of darkness around themselves and the other person.  It gets you nothing.

Stephen J.  Cannell

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.
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