What’s the Expiration Date on a Grudge?

You’re dead to me.

No, seriously. You are dead to me. If you are, in fact, alive and breathing, don’t breathe on me. Don’t sit near me. Don’t say hello. Don’t be civil. Just be gone.

Not a grudge holder? Then you can’t relate to what I’m talking about here. I understand. This morning, one of my young Facebook friends posted a sweet paragraph about how we should start over every day with people, not holding any bad memories from the day before. Just begin anew with a clean slate. Sort of an Alzheimer’s approach to interpersonal relations.

I don’t hold a huge number of grudges but I can claim a couple. A former colleague swore at me, shouted a profanity at me, in the hallway of the agency where we both worked and I haven’t had a conversation with him since. I haven’t had occasion to, happily, but if I did, I wouldn’t. In this instance, my grudge needs to go through channels, be felt through people who do deal with the swearer. It’s enough to know that if I did sit down across the table from this person, I would still be angry from my pancreas on out. Even though it happened 35 years ago.

It’s all about bile. Don’t you love the word ‘bile’? If the original offense generated massive amounts of bile, the kind of bile that can be recreated in a flash of recollection of the original offense, that is visceral, churning, burning, humiliating, that calls up the intense, glowing anger of having been sworn at in the hallway of the agency where you worked where you were powerless to retaliate except by holding a grudge for the next 35 years, then the grudge has no real expiration date.

I use this instance as an example. Obviously, I hold more than one grudge or this piece wouldn’t be worth writing. Right?

Moving on. What mitigates a grudge, softens it and paves the way for reconciliation? Apology. No, wait. Apology.

In my opinion, an apology for an offense that instigated a serious grudge needs to be quite exceptional. Detailed and carefully crafted. And truly sincere. And probably public.

I once offended a very nice man by the reckless use of language in an email mistakenly sent “Reply All” and so, immediately recognizing my terrible offense, I apologized to him and to everyone on the email list. Instead of holding a grudge, which he would have been justified in doing, he quickly forgave me and is an enduring and trusted colleague to this day.

People could reduce the grudge rate by 90% if they would just apologize. In public. Eat a little shit.

So I don’t want to start every day thinking I should forgive people. I think people should start every day apologizing for whatever crummy thing they did or said to someone that will cause them to hold a grudge. Those people know who they are. You better believe it.

So that’s my little reflection on grudges. Other than that, I had a really nice day.

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