Service of Grudges—Helpful, Joyful or Best Forgotten?

January 10th, 2019

Categories: Anger, Grudge


A friend fed her hatred of an ex spouse with such vigor it ruined much of the rest of her life. I learned from watching her and thankfully avoided the same pitfall, one so easy to drop into.

Jenny Allen’s Wall Street Journal book review of Sophie Hannah’s “How to Hold a Grudge,” [Scribner], caught my eye and interest. It’s a book about how to handle anger, Allen writes.


Hannah comes up with 20 grudge types and Allen covers a few. She illustrates one, “Unreasonable Imposition Grudge,” by one friend putting another friend in charge of third friend who is an emotional mess while she’s out of the country. These two don’t know each other.

The “Ingratitude Grudge” is next. Two friends live in a house the parents of one have bought for them. When the friend whose parents did not buy the house take the girls out for a meal, the second set of parents never treat the other girl whom we assume lives rent free. Allen goes on to describe the “Assuming the Worst Grudge,” and the “Ill-Judged Joke Grudge.”

 “I recognized all of these, alas,” wrote Allen. “As I read through them, I found myself going over my own grudges. Then something happened, something Ms. Hannah promises her readers: The grudges started bothering me less. Some were just too ancient, or petty, or based on my too-harsh interpretation of someone’s behavior.” She described a minor grudge she tossed off but noted she didn’t feel better about a deeper one—a friend blabbed she was getting a divorce when she asked him not to. It taught her one lesson: Nobody can keep a secret. [Most of us know that, don’t we?]

“That’s a painful lesson,” Allen wrote. “It also points to the less-than-honest thing about this book: Ms. Hannah assures her readers that examining their grudges will bring not only insight but a kind of joy. Now that her own grudges have been properly ‘processed,’ she tells us, none of them involve ‘a shred of anger or unhappiness.’ I don’t believe it. An incident involving her brother and his crazy-sounding then-wife—he bullies Ms. Hannah, who’s barely moved into her new house, into rooting through all her unpacked boxes to find and hang a picture his wife painted so that the wife won’t get upset—‘permanently affected the degree to which I feel I can trust and rely on him.’ There’s no joy in knowing something like this.”

While Allen says that Hannah’s “resentment stories,” were fun to read because “they remind us of ourselves,” I’m not so sure they’d put me in a good mood. While I like helping others—and myself—out of emotional pickles, reviewing 260 pages of a strangers’ grudges, some of which remind me of things I’d rather forget, is too much sloshing in misery for me. One more time my mother’s saying works for me: “Bury the bone–just remember where you buried it.”

Do you find it beneficial to chew over old wounds and grudges for years or do you prefer to tuck them away and move on so as to clean the slate for a better day? Some grudges creep up and seep into memory though I prefer to recall happy ones and think I’m better off doing so. Acknowledging grudges is fine but nurturing them isn’t helpful or joyful—do you agree?




Tags: ,

13 Responses to “Service of Grudges—Helpful, Joyful or Best Forgotten?”

  1. Debbie Kunan Said:

    Debbie wrote on Facebook:

    Perhaps “grudge” is incorrect. When you know things about a person (or a company) whose behavior has been hurtful, unethical or unfair, then it’s not a grudge per se, it’s an ugly truth.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I must say I marvel at people who kowtow to a person who is well known to treat others poorly and may have even been nasty or worse to them. I can’t. At the same time though they may crop up in my life, I keep my distance best as possible. When out of sight, though, I don’t think about them–hence no grudge.

  3. Protius Said:

    At first blush, I looked at this post and thought, “This is an easy one. I don’t hold grudges for long; no big deal.” Then I thought about it … Oh my!

    Grudges seem to be largely derivative from the guilt ridden festering unassigned anger. I have plenty of that, and it has been, and still is, a major problem for me. It is not the validity of the grudge, but what we do about it which is important.

    We are not responsible for what others do to us, but we are for what we do to them. The way out of this morass of unrequited anger and overlong remembered grudges could be to focus on our own misdeeds to others? Might we not be able to squeeze the poison of too long remembered anger out of our systems by resolving the quilt we suffer from because of our own misdeeds?

    Inevitably that sloppy, lazy piece of analysis here, that over-critical annual performance review there, caused someone else grudge worthy grief, over a career. To acknowledge our mistakes to our victims after the fact could do much to mitigate our guilt and to make it possible for us to forget the pain that our holding grudges caused us.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I carry grudges against people who have lied to me, taken advantage of me or have deceived me. I clearly am half of any problem which I think is what you are alluding to.

    I may be in the wrong place at the wrong time for example–I took a job once because I needed a paycheck and health insurance and I knew from the start that the owner was nasty so I didn’t carry a grudge when I left as the job had served its purpose and I knew what I was dealing with. You could say if a friend or partner in business or personally has “done me wrong,” it’s my fault for having anything to do with the person to begin with.

    Lots to think about.

  5. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward wrote on Facebook: Keep busy, work harder, make difficult goals, grudges are an easy target for an idle mind.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    So very true! I’ve often thought “xyz person doesn’t have enough to do.” You divert your mind from many things—troubles too—by deadlines and a list of to-dos. However if this technique doesn’t work professional help is essential and effective.

  7. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward on Facebook: I believe many of our problems are caused by having too much.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    and dwelling on disappointments ….

  9. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward on Facebook: A definite road to mental downfall.

  10. Martha Takayama Said:

    I know that I have to make an effort to discard past wounds and that dwelling on accurate or less than accurate remembrances of unappealing or offensive behavior is a counter-productive activity that only causes me distress. That does not mean that I a;ways succeed in behaving wisely. However, experience has taught me that it is best to move on. Move away in real or metaphorical terms from the person whom you can’t see your way to forgiving. Don’t engage in situations that will mean a repeat of what caused you to be angry. Reading a book about myriad grudges held by strangers for a variety of reasons sounds like a dreadful way to pass my time. A few words of positive advice from a good friend, a counselor or a therapist should be more useful. Since we are living in such topsy-turvy times with a vicious, grudge holding misanthrope for a leader we should have realised what a destructive futile course of action exacerbating and dwelling on grudges is.

  11. Martin Johnson Said:

    Martin wrote on Facebook: Sadly grudges, like hatreds backfire. Best to forgive but not forget. That was an excellent piece, Jeannie

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I used to watch a terrible program when I was stuck without transportation in a tiny Illinois town miles from a city or the Air Force base. I was very young, newly married, had a new driver’s license but only one car which my then husband needed to get to work at ungodly hours required by the Air Force. After I’d walked to the town that had nothing to see and back to our small apartment I’d turn on the TV with, like the town, nothing to watch. One program was “Divorce Court.” My then husband knew if I’d watched that terrible program as I was in a nasty mood when he got home. The subject of the book would have a similar impact on me pretty sure.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Forgetting and ignoring a person who has crossed me badly is more my style. I’ve read countless times and in myriad books the benefits of forgiveness. Holocaust and concentration camp survivors attest to the benefits and I believe them. I’m not a big enough person to follow their lead.

Leave a Reply

Clicky Web Analytics