I don’t get angry. Okay, I do, but I don’t get mad. Well, sometimes, but… what’s a word for being really super white-hot angry for an extremely short period of time and then flaring out? Because that’s what I do.

But one thing I definitely don’t do, not really, is hold grudges. I’ve never seen the point of continuing to be angry with someone for something they did, especially if they aren’t continuing to do it. If someone steps on your foot every time they see you, that’s not a grudge, that’s a response to expected behavior. If someone steps on your foot one time, and then five years later you exclude that person from your wedding because of that time they stepped on your foot, that’s a grudge and you’ve been hauling that around for five years.

GrudgeAs far as I can see, there are only two reasonable responses to being angry:

  1. Get even
  2. Get over it

If someone has done something to hurt you, immediately decide if you want to hurt them back. If you do, then make a plan, put it in a motion and do it. Soon. If you wait too long, they won’t understand the link between the two, and really that is the goal, making that link. “I’m hurting you because you hurt me.” If you wait five years, chances are they won’t even remember what they did, because the big downside of a grudge is that most of the time you were hurt, which isn’t the same as they hurt you – the former is a result, the latter implies an intent. However, since the link, the message, is what is important, why not just do that instead? “Hey man, you stepped on my foot.” “Sorry.” Done. And if they keep doing it even after being told, then it because a pattern of behavior, to which responding is normal and expected – not a grudge. “He’s not invited to the wedding because he stepped on my foot one time five years ago!” sounds insane. “He’s not invited to the wedding because he steps on my foot every time I see him despite being told repeatedly not to do it, and I would prefer not to have my foot stepped on at my wedding.” is a reasonable* response to long-term behavior.

So, your foot has been stepped on. You decide not to do anything about it right now, no action and no words, what do you do? Let it go. If you can’t be bothered to act in some fashion about something when it happens, why carry that around waiting for a time to spring it one someone? Too much effort, and it’ll affect your interactions in the meantime. That person will be part of your bowling league and because they stepped on your foot that one time, you give them only short answers to direct questions and otherwise ignore them. The only person who knows the reason is you, and it wouldn’t make sense if you explained it, and now everyone just thinks you’re a jerk or something because you are pointedly leaving that one person out of conversations. Or worse, other people start giving that a guy the cold shoulder in solidarity (or something) and you push him slowly out of your circle of friends, all because he scuffed your Pumas. Was it worth it?

For me, it is never worth it. Carrying around anger and resentment just makes me tired and frustrated.


*for some definitions of “reasonable”

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