Ethical codes and most religious doctrines tell us that we should forgive those who harm us. There’s a socially redeeming quality to this advice, but it’s also sound from a psychological perspective.
When we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, we leave ourselves open to the danger of ruminating about the event. As we rehash in our minds the episode that’s gotten us upset, we experience all the negative emotions over and over again. Yet, the hurt remains because the event can’t be taken back.
Holding grudges is a lot of wasted work and actually runs counter to our own self-interests. When we hold a grudge, we give power to those who harmed us. We can feel less in control of our lives because we’re focusing inwardly on the hurt and not outwardly on our own lives. In other words, we allow ourselves to be ruled by negative emotions springing from past events. And as grudges often fuel anger, there’s a good chance we’ll exacerbate the problem by taking revenge, which is also a bad idea. As they say, taking revenge is like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the other person to die.
“Without forgiveness, life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.”