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Why Holding a Grudge Can Be Healthy

“Forgive and forget!”

Something we’re bound to hear every time we get hurt. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished ranting about someone treating me badly, only to receive a sympathetic nod and some variation of, “Well you know what they say, forgive and forget right?” in response. For most of my life, I’d internally roll my eyes and huff out a weak agreement. But as I get older and realize that I actually deserve to be treated well, the phrase pisses me off more and more.

The intentions behind it are good. I know that. The goal is to give people the benefit of the doubt and start fresh without the weight of anger bearing down on you. And in a perfect world, it would work wonderfully – whoever did you wrong would see the error of their ways, and your friendship would end up stronger than ever. Nine times out of ten, however, this only serves to prove to whoever hurt you that they can do so and get away with it. Not to sound bitter (even though I am), but people, by nature, take advantage of kindness. Maybe not everyone, and maybe not all the time, but enough that a policy of constant forgiveness will inevitably wind up in you getting hurt the same way again and again. 

That’s why a few years ago after my best friend stabbed me in the back for what felt like the hundredth time, I finally snapped. I told him to screw off, deleted his number, and never looked back. Did I forgive him? Sure. But do I still hold a grudge? Absolutely. Because if I didn’t, I know that I would break down and invite him back into my life, only to be let down again. The younger me with lower self-esteem let that happen, and every time it did it felt like a punch to the stomach that I really should’ve been expecting the whole time. That isn’t to say it was my fault because a willingness to trust in someone should never be exploited. However, I could have ended that cycle a long time before I did.

Some say holding a grudge is a burden, and that in order to be healthy we need to let go of all of our anger. While I agree that there is a time and place to wipe the slate clean, it’s important to recognize if whoever hurt you deserves a do-over. Even further, ask yourself whether you’re strong enough to kick them to the curb if they hurt you again. If you’ve made peace with them and with yourself, then maybe “forgive and forget” really is the best option. But if you need to hold a grudge to remind yourself that they don’t deserve to be in your life, then absolutely do. Your friendship is precious, and no one should treat it like anything else. Remember those who don’t see your value, so when they come crawling back you can confidently smile, flip them off, and walk the other way.

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