This is a piece about friendship, forgiveness, and grudges. It is a truly personal piece on something I have had issues with for my entire 30 years. I am sure everyone has struggled with this at some point. This is one piece I have had trouble with sharing because it shines a bad light on myself in some ways, but I accept that there are bad things about myself. There are bad things about everyone. Good people aren’t perfect, but constantly try to be better.
I think this may be the most important thing I have shared so far. While I talk about how my mental health struggles with bipolar have affected this, I truly believe everyone deals with these issues in one way or another.
I have spent a lot of my life stuck holding grudges for this or that and for a heart like mine, this did a lot of damage. The damage this has done has been not to my heart alone, but to the people with whom I have held relationships. It hurts me to think of the hurt I have caused in response to feeling that same hurt myself.
This is my learning on the matter and how the 30-year-old version of me differs from my past self.
I no longer accept from myself that one offense could be inexcusable. No one should be held to the standard of one strike and you’re out, not in baseball and certainly not in your real life.
Not only is this unfair to the other party in said situation, but it’s unfair to you.
Holding grudges only takes from you.
You gain nothing from them, but hurt in your own heart. Almost nothing someone did is worth losing your relationship completely and if it is, that should have been clear to the person. Expectations and holding boundaries are the job of both parties in any relationship.
When I was young, my dad taught me there were not a lot of good people in life. He said you have to sift through and find the good ones and keep those people in your life. He believed in fair relationships, people both putting in what they should. It is not that I dispute any of these facts. However, my father was harsh in what those expectations held. This caused him to choose to end a lot of relationships because of unmet expectations.
My father is a wise man, so in no way am I refuting what he believes. The thing I have learned from being older is you can see the validity in what others believe but you don’t have to believe it one hundred percent. We can listen to other people and learn parts from them, but keep parts of our own beliefs as well.
My life has been much different than my father’s, much easier in most ways. This leads to a lot of differences in how we think and how we process the world.
I no longer believe that all people are good like I once did, but I do believe there is good in everyone. I believe if the good is harnessed, overall shitty people can become good people. My father doesn’t believe this or in people changing. That is his experience in his work life, maybe in his personal life, too. This led him to instilling strict expectations in others. If these were not met at once, it would end the relationship all together.
It is difficult when you grow up and realize your parents are people too and less infallible than we had originally thought. Don’t get me wrong, I have adopted most of the big things my parents taught me by now, and have scolded my former self for not listening. This, however, is just one way I differ from my father and that is perfectly fine.
I do believe in the idea my father was getting at and that is not to let people treat you poorly. Now that part, I can get behind.
REFLECTION AND CHANGES
Reflecting on my own life and behaviors, it dawned on me that I have changed so much. Was I a shitty person when I was younger? Maybe. I did some awful things I would never do as an adult. However, I always worked and continue working on being better. Maybe that’s what makes a good person in the end, but again this is all my opinion.
Now when I think of ‘grudges’, I think negatively. It is not something that brings a good feeling to anyone to hear that word.
That said, does that mean a good person would be someone who holds grudges? Well to me, no. To me, I hear that word and think that a pretty shitty person is proud of holding grudges.
It is not that we all do not struggle with holding grudges or you are a shitty person forever for holding a grudge!
When you choose to continue to hold grudges that you have recognized and in turn, never work on your valuable relationships or at least peace, that is what makes you a shitty person. The lack of attempt and care, the lack of trying to be better– that is what makes a shitty person.
Holding grudges is easy. Forgiveness is hard.
Grudges keep themselves going and fester into this kind of hate that sits in your gut.
Forgiveness is work. Forgiveness takes time. Relationships are work though– well good ones are at least.
You’re not always the villain, but you’re not always the hero either.
Why do I hold grudges?
The problem with grudges is they are so often linked with your perceptions of self. It is easy to villainize the world and everyone but you, rather than take responsibility for your part in the matter. It is easy to merely shut it down, move on and disregard the people along with the past they are linked to. If you do this, you don’t have to sit with those feelings. Those hard feelings are what you have to sit through and work through to forgive yourself, which may be harder than forgiving everyone else involved. Without that first step of truly claiming and accepting that you did harm to someone else, you can’t genuinely move past those feelings that lead to holding a grudge. And without that first step, you definitely can’t get to the part where you can forgive the other party.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH BIPOLAR
I live with bipolar, which does not help with learning and understanding relationships. During episodes, the first thing my brain tells me is that ’everyone hates me.’ My brain creates these battles in my head and sometimes it is hard to even convince myself that I am worthy or that I don’t, in fact, hate myself, too.
When something someone else does bothers me in this time period, it seems a hundred times worse. No, a million times worse– INFINITY TIMES WORSE! These times stick with me and a file of all the shitty things this person has ever said or did is created somewhere in my brain files. Much like a computer, even when you try to erase something, it is there underneath, all encrypted and ready to be found again given the right antecedent. Bipolar episodes make everything seem more extreme and feel as though the actual apocalypse is near.
Living with bipolar means I have times I am difficult to be around. I know that now and though I have known it, it is still hard to accept. It comes with shame when I break through my meds and have an episode in front of people. It comes with immense feelings of self doubt, self hate, thoughts of self harm even. Forgiving myself for the things I have said and done is the hardest part for me, not forgiving the other person in the situation. Sometimes the person in said situation wasn’t even wrong. Sometimes my bipolar brain, my crazy side, the Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll, sometimes she is the one making the call. This sucks to admit, but it really is true.
At these times, I need to get myself back before I can work on getting anyone else back if that makes sense. These times are the hardest because I want to be a good person, obviously. I want to be a good friend, a nice person. I want to make good choices and make people I love feel good. I know I have done things that have made people I love feel AWFUL and though that was never my intention, it happened. Getting back to yourself when these things happen is hard work and it sucks. It makes you see the dark parts of yourself.
Living with bipolar means there is dark in there. My light is always fighting my dark, but it is there.
Living with bipolar means I know there is venom in my system. When I am hurt, I have a bite I wish I could take back, wish I could de-fang. It remains in there even if I work through it, even when I curse that part of me wishing it never existed to begin with.
I know the important people in my life still love me through it, still love me after.
That is why it is RIDICULOUS that I have not given people the same courtesy back.
In the past, I have chosen the easy way out– which is out. Getting out is easy as I said.
Now, I refuse to choose the easy way out; I choose love instead.
Another part of living with bipolar is the creation of triggers. An added factor to this whole set of relationship issues is that people become linked to time periods. If I had an episode, especially a long one, all the people involved become part of it in my brain.
I can’t always decipher good from bad in these times. That means I can’t see the good in myself just like I can’t see the good in others. My brain is clouded by blackness. That is the only way I can describe the beginning. The cloud comes and sometimes I swear I can feel it.
That doesn’t stop it always unfortunately. Big events or big change can cause a rapid episode, one I don’t see coming and so people become triggers. People link back to how bad a certain time period was, to how bad I was. This can be because of something they did in that time period OR NOTHING AT ALL.
Living with bipolar means working to try to find clarity when you are lucky enough to work your way to your baseline. Baseline is when things are good and you find yourself at your TRUE self. Not the manic one, who stays up for 4 days at a time. Not the depressed one who can sleep for the same. Baseline means I can see situations for what they were and see all parties involved. Baselines is where growing can happen.
Bipolar or “normal” alike, if you let something fester, it will grow and change. If you let it fester, all the good things in that relationship will start to be clouded by this festering beast and rot your brain. Instead of seeing all the good times, the times on the couch watching sitcoms, the inside jokes, the sleepovers with wine, discussing all the women you wish you had gotten the nerve to talk to. All those private and public memories alike. You lose all of this when you let the one thing that’s wrong take that all over.
You let the dark win.
Remember always: The dark wants you to lose everyone and everything.
Holding grudges doesn’t hold you accountable for your part in a situation at all. Something pissed you off? Well, did you set the boundary? Did you give the person a chance to correct it, feedback or tell them it hurt you? Oh, it is so easy to let that one thing take over. It is so easy to move on. Easier to move on than to converse. Easier to decide others are shit than to accept that maybe you didn’t set a boundary and maybe you weren’t clear. It is easier to blame and blame and blame, to shift that blame to others. Yet, when others hurt us, it is our job to say it. It is our job to create boundaries and ask for something to happen or not happen again. That asking, that telling of your needs is your responsibility.
When we don’t set boundaries and don’t let people know how we feel about a situation, we set both people up for failure. No one wants to feel as if they are heading into a trap or walking on eggshells, which can often happen when one doesn’t know that the other is having feelings about something from before.
Giving that feedback, however, demands a second chance.
You can’t expect anyone to get it all right the first time. Error is inherently human.
The problem with this method is it becomes a lather, rinse, repeat cycle. Someone upsets you. BOOM! Shut it down. Next, move on. Someone upsets you BOOM! Shut it down. Disagreement. BOOM! Hypocritical behavior BOOM!
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
One grudge leads to another because you learn how easy it is to detach. Connection is hard; detachment is easy.
I no longer think it is OK to shut people down without giving them a reason or chance to fix it or explain themselves. Frankly, I am ashamed I have lived like that for so long. If you don’t give someone that or want to give someone that, then you never had a real relationship to begin with and that’s really on you for letting them think you did.
Shame is hard to sit with, but you can’t get better if you don’t sit through it.
If you look for bad things in other people and relationships, you will find them. No one is perfect and you, my dear self, are far from. The acceptance of the flawed self is something I understand and continue to work on. However, the flawed other is the issue. Why do we see it that we are okay with our flaws, but it is so hard to move past others’?
What we all need to understand and face is that there is no relationship ever where there are no issues. It is not possible. There are a multitude of people that I get along with and agree about a lot of things with. When I go to a rugby social, for example, I know most people will agree that forwards are the workhorses of the pitch. That doesn’t mean we will agree on everything. That is okay. We have to learn to accept that even people we love will not agree with us on everything.
Getting into a relationship (friendships, romantic, professional) comes with a set of expectations on all parties. If you get into a relationship and your expectations or theirs are not being met, it is the job of both parties to say something and work on it. If someone matters, you do work on it and they work on it, too. That is how safe, secure, and respectful relationships work and move forward. That is how relationships are when there are not issues and that is how forgiveness is found when there are.
All I know is the steps towards forgiveness start with you forgiving you. You need to forgive yourself first to truly move on and find clarity. Next, you have to have the desire and willingness to reach out and do the work.
If it truly feels okay to just leave and move on, I’m not sure you had much to begin with. If memories together aren’t worth it, and the things you enjoyed about each other aren’t there in your head, then and only then would I say you need to just move on. For me, I still prefer to reach out and let people know I was in the wrong, too. Vindication feels good and even if you don’t want someone in your life, they deserve that as well as closure.
Shutting people out, ghosting people, or whatever we call it these days, just sucks for everyone. So we just shouldn’t do it anymore, okay?
So what do we do? How do we move past the grudge? How do we move past our prior actions?
There is a lot of shame in behavior we have during times when we are upset. Things are said that aren’t meant. Retaliatory remarks are made. Things are left in disarray. The relationship is harmed.
If getting past these actions is difficult for you, the one who had created the issue, then you can imagine how the person receiving said behaviors feels.
When you hurt someone, you don’t get to change how they feel, tell them how to feel, or change in any way how they feel. All you can do is express your genuine apologies and truly make a plan to be better. Relationships will never grow if the same things happen again and again.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
There are things to remember when trying to address and repair past issues, past arguments, and past grudges if it has gotten that far:
- Both parties involved have to have the desire to fix the relationship- if that isn’t there, you can apologize and agree to move on.
- Everyone has the right to choose to be in your life, or not.
- There are two sides and both matter to repairing the relationship.
- Forgiveness means moving on, not bringing up the past at a later date. Don’t say you are over something you are not and bring it up again and again. This is unproductive and flat out mean. No one wants to hear something they did wrong over and over for the rest of their lives.
- Make a plan to treat the people in your life the way they want to be treated and not the way you think they want to be treated- meaning LISTEN if they say something is important and work on THAT, what is important to them, not just you.
When you do the work and forgive yourself, you allow yourself to move forward with your relationship with yourself. You can start to rebuild that relationship and move forward with love.
Relationships with others are the same.
When you forgive and work to move forward, you gain so much more than holding that grudge. You give yourself the opportunity to have that friendship again, to start over in a way.
If you were friends to start, there was a reason.
People you love are worth fighting for, even if it’s hard. People you love are worth fighting for, even if it forces you to sit with some shame or hurt you caused.