Why People Hold Grudges, Its Effects, and How to Release It

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Why People Hold Grudges, Its Effects, and How to Release It

Grudges are evidences how one have been hurt / Photo by Getty Images


Grudges are heavy burdens to keep carrying throughout one’s life. People are aware that clinging onto them will just cause them pain yet they refuse to let go. According to psychotherapist Nancy Colier, grudges go hand-in-hand with an identity. When individuals choose to bear a grudge, they label themselves as the ones who have been wronged. These grudges become the evidence of how much pain they have endured. They serve as reminders of how hurt they have been and how they deserve better.  

Releasing this grudge may feel like they no longer hold the one who has done them injustice accountable. This may also mean losing the identity of being the wronged one, a purpose or the sympathy one gains from holding onto them. However, if a person continues to keep this within themselves, it can also prevent them from being empathic and kind. The comfort they seek does not lie in holding onto these grudges.  

Sarah Saffian, a psychotherapist from New York City, states that “Holding onto a grudge is a form of self-protection because anger s more powerful than vulnerability and acknowledging that you’re hurt.”

Reasons People Hold Grudges

There are several reasons why people would bear a grudge against someone but there are five common causes of it. As written by the clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, the most common reasons people hold onto grudges are:

Misunderstandings and assumptions

There are occasions where people conclude that others have initially meant to harm them. Most of the time, this conclusion is wrong. When they are unable to discuss with the person their true intentions, they tend to give off negative intentions.

Unrealistic expectations

When others do not meet their high expectations, some individuals feel dissatisfied or offended. The people who are most likely to experience this are the emotionally generous ones. They tend to feel disappointed when people do not equally reciprocate what they give.

Feeling left out

A person may feel that no one acknowledges them for their efforts or do not make them feel they belong somewhere. They may feel that others are just using them or taking advantage of them. They may also feel that others are ignoring them or neglecting their needs.

Being disgusted/reaching a limit

There comes a time when a person reaches the limit for being able to bear all the hurt they receive from the constant painful interactions they have with someone. When they have had enough, they get tired of dealing with them and become mentally depleted. This situation often happens in married and dating couples. One of the partners may say that do not have enough energy to bear with their significant other’s behavior.


It is quite difficult not to be jealous when one sees other people doing better than they are. They may actually be suffering from a low sense of self-esteem.

Effects of Holding Onto Grudges

The Mayo Clinic states that if an individual continues to hold a grudge, they may be so focused on how they have been wronged that they are unable to find pleasure in the present moment.  Every time they enter another relationship or experience, they may carry with them their anger and resentment. They may also turn depressed or anxious and feel that their life is meaningless and that they have no reason for existing. In addition, they feel conflicted with their spiritual beliefs. This also takes away the chances of having enriching and valuable connections with other people.


How to Release Grudges and Forgive

In order to be able to reach a state of forgiveness, they must first acknowledge how important forgiveness is and how it can make their life better. Next, they must determine what kind of pain or issue needs to address, who is the person they must forgive and what exactly they have done that that must be forgiven. They may also see a counselor or be a member of a support group. Then, they must recognize what they feel about the offense done to them. Afterwards, they should examine how those feelings influence their actions. Moving along, they must ultimately decide to forgive those who have wronged them. Lastly, they must let go of their role as a victim. If they choose to do this, this will free them from the power and control that circumstance had over their life.

When they release these grudges, their life is not shaped by their suffering anymore. In the process, they may come to develop empathy and compassion. Forgiveness can also be the bridge to reconciliation and fixing the broken relationships one has. Even if it does not result in reconciliation, they may experience several other benefits of forgiveness such as having healthier relationships, better mental health, immune system, and heart health, reducing the symptoms of depression and higher self-esteem.


Forgiveness can fix broken relationships / Photo by Getty Images



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