I know some world-class grudge-holders.  Do either of the following scenarios sound like someone you know?

You and your mother-in-law had the fight to end all fights. Granted, it was a long time ago, but it was never resolved. There was no resolution.  There wasn’t even an agreement to disagree. Just silence. When absolutely necessary, you went through the motions. You mailed a card on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and Christmas. You let your husband do the calling to check in, knowing that it wasn’t exactly on his radar to call his mother as often as she wanted to hear from him. But did you remind him? Did you take any initiative whatsoever about reaching out to her? Probably not, because you knew she was angry with you, and frankly, you told yourself you didn’t care.

As your Mediator, I have a question. Do you consider this your grudge or hers?

Your dad and his brother hadn’t spoken to each other in decades.  You aren’t even really sure what the fight was about, and since it wasn’t your fight, you never asked your dad for the details.  When your dad passed away, you felt honor bound to let your uncle know, so you called several times.  You left messages for your uncle to call you back, said it was important, but he never returned the call.

As your Mediator, I have a question.  Do you consider this your grudge or your dad’s?

In a perfect world, I would arrange for the people in conflict to come to my office.  I would set up some ground rules for discussing the events leading up to the fight, such as not interrupting, trying to listen carefully and with an open mind, and definitely no eye-rolling.  And then I would attempt to help my clients hear each other in an effort to understand the feelings each was conveying.  At the end, everyone would hug it out and be able to move forward.  

But what if it’s not tied up into a neat little package?  What if your sister insists on being right, and judging you?  What if your mother-in-law gossips about you behind your back?  Is it possible to let go of a grudge, regardless of who’s really holding onto it?

Ideally, forgiveness is always the shortest path to removing the grudge.  But if that isn’t possible, for whatever reason, you can let go of the grudge by simply understanding that you’re both right.  Your mother-in-law is right about her own feelings, and you’re right about yours.  Your boss is right about feeling impatient, and you’re right about feeling annoyed.  Our feelings and our perspectives are as individual as we are. 

With that understanding, and with that degree of self-respect, you just might be able to let go of the grudge and keep your dignity.  Please promise me you’ll think about this.  And let me know if it works for you.