The Grudge Health Hazard

The Grudge Health Hazard

June 2, 2017

Every day offers us an opportunity to review, reassess, and realign. There’s a good reason to do it. Did you know that holding a grudge is hazardous to your health and is probably getting in your way?

Dr. Fred Luskin (Director and Cofounder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project) describes the grudge hazard this way: “Picture the crowded screen in front of a harried air traffic controller. Picture the chaos in the room and the jumble of planes on the screen. Now imagine that your unresolved grievances are the planes on that screen that have been circling for days and weeks on end. Many planes have landed, but your unresolved grievances continue to take up precious air space, draining resources needed in an emergency. Having them on the screen forces you to work harder and increases the chance of an accident. The grievance plane becomes a source of stress and burnout.”

How do those “planes” get up there in the first place? Ordinarily it is because

  1. You took something too personally.
  2. You continue to blame the person who hurt you for how bad you feel.
  3. You have created a grievance story you retell and retell.

Forgiveness – a “heart healthy” decision – is the peace you learn to feel when you allow the circling planes to land. – Essentially when you let go of a grievance.

A place to start: honestly answer, are you “telling a grievance story??” Have you told your story more than twice to the same person? Do you replay the events that happened over and over again in your mind? Is the person who hurt you the central character of your story? Does your story focus primarily on your pain and what you have lost? In your story, is there a villain? Have you made a commitment to yourself to not tell your story again, and then broken that promise? Has your story stayed the same over time? Have you checked the details of your story for accuracy?

You can as easily change a grievance story as create one. When you hear yourself talking about a past hurt, stop for a moment to see if you’re telling a grievance story. If so, pause and take a deep breath. Your grievance story, which seems comforting and familiar, is your enemy. The story, more than what originally hurt you, is imprisoning you. It keeps you in the past. It alienates friends and family. It reminds you and others you are a victim.  Changing that grievance story leads to landing a plane that is stressing you out.

Change grievance story you have from one of victim to one of hero.