It’s hard to move past grudges or the opinions we have of others. We try to avoid certain people. When we do see them we act differently around them. When we see them we tense up as our heads are filled with all the thoughts and memories of the past that brought you to this point. You feel uncomfortable and full of negative feelings. It’s easier to not be around them, to avoid them completely and then you don’t have to think and feel such things. But what if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if you could just start over. Would you want to?
If I could offer you some magical pill to swallow that would erase all the past annoyances, grudges, memories of this person so that when you see them you see them as just another average Joe, would you take it? Would it be worth it to you to not feel those negative feelings? To not have those negative thoughts?
I think that magic pill could be a beautiful gift to so many but I don’t have anything of that nature to offer you today. I do however have a way that you CAN make it possible to see them in a different light, to move passed old grudges, to show up how you WANT to show up around them, and to FEEL however you want to feel in their presence. It takes some mental work but it IS POSSIBLE. Want it?
Become Aware of your Thoughts
The first hurdle to jump over is to become AWARE of your thoughts about them. When you see them what thoughts come into your head? How are you feeling when you’re around them? Why are you feeling that way? FEELINGS stem from our THOUGHTS so what are you thinking?
I had this old grudge against this lady I knew from years ago that drove be batty (or so I thought she did). Let’s call her Lisa. She was an attention seeker and everywhere she’d go she talk about herself and tell everyone about all the good deeds she was doing and how she was just this remarkably selfless person. Then when the crowd was gone and she was around those of us that really knew her, a new person would emerge. She’d be cold and grumpy. It was confusing and alarming. It took some time to realize this pattern of hers and I didn’t like it. I felt like she was a fake and a fraud. I started to resent her and her two-sidedness. I didn’t want to be around her because I felt disdain, dismay, irritation, annoyed, incredulous, etc. – you get the picture – nothing positive just negative feelings stemmed from negative thoughts about this person. Not fun.
So I started to avoid Lisa as often as I could. I didn’t like feeling that way – it felt so out of character for me that I thought that if I could just not be around this person I could be the person I want to be. If I didn’t see her I wouldn’t feel the pain that my passed grudge was causing. Makes sense, right?
Rats in the Cellar
But then I came across this quote by C.S. Lewis that has forever changed me:
“we begin to notice besides our particular sinful act, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case.
When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.
Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.
The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. ”
Those people that irritate us, that make us angry or frustrated, are NOT THE CAUSE of our negativity. We create grudges, they aren’t just given to us for us to bear. It may feel like it at times but they’re not. It’s our own mind, our own thoughts about them that just shine the light on our rats in the cellar. We think, “It’s because she ____________! I was caught off my guard! I was provoked!” that caused us to feel negatively but as C.S. Lewis said, it’s not the circumstance – this suddenness doesn’t CREATE the rats – it only prevents them from HIDING.
So awareness, know that you are the cause of all your feelings. The way you think causes how you feel. The thoughts you’re having about this person is creating the feelings you’re experiencing. Lisa didn’t cause me to feel annoyed and irritated. She was just being her, doing what she felt was best (even if her best was NOT what I thought it should be – but who am I to decide what’s best for her???). I created those feelings by thinking, “She’s a fake. She’s only doing this for attention. It’s not real. She’s so two-faced.” – those thoughts are negative thoughts which will certainly generate NEGATIVITY. Those are MY RATS in the cellar – they’re always there as long as I continue defaulting to negative thoughts. Lisa doesn’t need to change. I don’t need to avoid Lisa to feel better. I need to change my thoughts, my belief patterns of what I think people SHOULD be like, of how they SHOULD act, speak, show up in the world.
So the second thing after awareness is just to ask yourself WHY. Why am I feeling the way I’m feeling? Why am I keeping these thoughts? Why am I clinging to these thoughts, these grudges? So what if she’s like that? Why does this bother me? Why do I think she should act a certain way? Why, why, why…ask yourself LOTS of questions and get to the bottom of why you feel and think the way you do in this area. The only way to get rid of those rats is by finding the source.
What do you WANT?
Third, do you WANT to keep those thoughts/expectations of others? Are they serving you? Are they helping you progress? Or by keeping them do you remain stuck? This is pivotal because YOU GET TO DECIDE. This is where you decide if you want to let go of all that negativity that you’ve been storing in hiding (your rats so to speak) or if you really want to be free of it. Do you want to feel better?
If the answer is no, then keep on doing what you’re doing…Some people think it’s too hard to change. They don’t want to. They like to keep their grudges close and if this is you – that’s okay too. But just know it’s a choice, not a byproduct of the circumstance. Remember, THEY are the circumstance – we can’t control what THEY do or say. You can only control YOU and recognize that the way you’re feeling and thinking is your choice. What’s also good about this is that whenever you do decide (if you do) that you don’t want to hang on to it any longer you don’t have to- you can change WHENEVER you want because it’s YOUR CHOICE how you feel around someone.
If the answer is yes, you’re ready to change. You’re ready to let go of the negativity that lurks in the shadows – time to get rid of those rats – then the answer is going to be to change your thoughts about them. You get to rewrite your thoughts about them. NOT suppress them. This is so helpful. What if you could look at them as if it were the first time? You could show up just being YOU and how you want to be. If you’re kind and outgoing then when you see them you show up kind and outgoing and not weighed down by the past. You get to be who you want to be. You get to feel how you want to feel.
New Thoughts to Try in Order to Move Passed Old Grudges
What if we just started over?
What would that look like?
What would that mean?
You’d have to let go/alter/rewrite your view of all the past experiences you have of this person. All the negative thoughts, the painful grudges that spring up when you’re around them BECAUSE of thoughts and judgements you have of them. This doesn’t mean to just suppress those thoughts – that never works – ever. It’s going to spring back up even stronger than it was before – you have to RE-WRITE the way you’re thinking about them.
With Lisa, starting over meant that I had to become aware of how I thought about her. It would look like me letting go of thoughts I had held on to for such a long time. It meant that I would have to question those beliefs I had of her. That I’d have to let go of judgement of her. It meant that I would be willing to be open minded with her again. I thought she was a fake. That she was two-faced. Those thoughts don’t feel good. I had to ask myself, “Is she a fake? is that true? Who says what’s fake or not? Who says what’s true for her?” – maybe she’s not fake. Maybe this is her being genuine, all the good’s, the up’s, the highlights. Maybe what I felt was coldness was just part of her being true too. She wasn’t afraid to show the world all of her up’s and downs. Maybe this is what Lisa really is and what she really looks like. I could think, “Oh, sometimes she does that.” – and move on. Am I going to share my innermost secrets with her now or be BFF’s? Probably not, but I’m also not going to punish her, judge her, or continue to hang on to these old grudges in my mind anymore because of the way she’s acting either. I can be free to love her because I AM LOVING not because I think she DESERVES it.
Months after I made this change regarding her I went to visit the area where she’s from and she was speaking in her ward that day. When I saw her stand my old self naturally wanted to tense up and think, “Well, here she goes again. She’s going to be fake.” But then I stopped those thoughts and changed them to, “What if we just started over? What if I pretended for right now that I’m a real visitor and I haven’t seen her before. How would I be feeling then?” – and I did. I sat there and looked around me and saw all these smiling faces and people looking in anticipation as she began to speak. I had to remind myself of the person I wanted to be: Kind, loving, genuine. Then I had to think thoughts that were KIND, LOVING, and GENUINE about her.
She did a nice job and taught really great things. I genuinely enjoyed her address and I didn’t feel negativity. I didn’t feel annoyed. I didn’t feel resentment or dismay. I felt really good and loving. It wasn’t easy. My natural man side really, really, really wanted to argue with her and do the “Yeah, but, remember this time where you _______________” – but I didn’t. I instead thought, she’s supposed to act that way. It was supposed to be like that. And my brain would quiet down and I could once remind myself that we were starting over again. So I’d listen in without the negative chatter that tried climbing back in.
I have my agency, as do you. I get to decide what I think, how I feel, how I’m going to show up, and what kind of person I’m going to be in any situation. Not changing because I was provoked or it was so sudden like Lewis said. Who do you want to be regardless of the suddenness? The provocation?
It was refreshing to me to experience this change. It showed me for the first time that I’m not at the whims of others. They don’t MAKE me feel anything. I CHOOSE that. It’s empowering and liberating that I don’t have to show up closed off if I don’t want to be. I don’t have to feel irritated if I don’t want to be. I can let go of my beliefs about this person, I can let go of my old grudges against them. I can be kind and loving always if I choose to be. It takes some mental work in the beginning but it’s worth it to me to feel how I want to feel. Is it worth it to you?
Can you think of someone that irritates you? – That you’d rather avoid because you don’t like how you feel around them? Now, do you WANT to be able to start over? How do you WANT to feel around them? Who do you WANT to be around them? The ball is in your court. You get to decide. Is it worth it to you to feel better?
It is possible and real and at your fingertips whenever you decide it’s worth it to you to do the mental work. Try it, it’s amazing the change that takes place because you decided it.
Disclaimer: We tend to gravitate towards the extremes in our thoughts – this is NOT what this article is about. I’m not talking about severe abuse, or your safety, or anything like that. I’m talking about the day to day people that maybe have offended you, that annoyed you, that you just don’t like or have old grudges against them. If you feel like you want to hold on to how you feel about them because it’s necessary for your safety or well being – go for it. I’m not judging or saying anything should be a certain way. I’m just spotlighting that we have choices always.
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