Get Rid of the Poison Once and For All

Photo by Dennis J Coughlin

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Malachy McCourt, the younger brother of author Frank McCourt. once said:

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Powerful words for those of us who are holding a grudge.

Yet we also know that putting that philosophy into practice requires a great deal of willpower. Here are a few suggestions to help.

Think About a Friend

Take a moment to think about your best friend. What if they were in the middle of a bitter grudge? Imagine you are listening to their story. What would you say to him or her?

My guess is that you would listen, hear both sides of the story and then tell your friend, in so many words, to “let it go”. What else are you going to say?

Are you going to tell your friend:

“Yes, you should be stressed! In fact, you need to get yourself even more stressed!

Sleep? Forget that! You need to stay up all night thinking about this person!”

No, you are not going to say that.

Instead, you are going to give them advice that will help them move on. Maybe you’ll even suggest that they should forgive this other person. Not for the benefit of whoever is in the wrong, but for the benefit of your friend’s sanity.

Now, if we would give that advice to our best friend, then shouldn’t we take that same advice ourselves?

Focus on Gratitude Instead

One of the biggest benefits of developing a daily practice of gratitude is that it gives us the power to remove resentment from our mind.

If you are focusing on your personal grudge all day and thinking about all the various ways this person upset or hurt you, then you are not thinking about anything else. Your mind is full.

Grudges are all consuming. They fill us with so much anger that you cannot hold a grudge and still be present in the everyday moments of life. You have to pick one or the other.

Forget the grudge and take a moment to focus on your own life. Think about all the things you have to be grateful for right now.

If I stop and think about all the things I have to be grateful for today, from my family to my health, then it becomes hard to convince myself that I need to return to the anger of a grudge. I just don’t have the energy.

In the past, I’ve talked about how gratitude is the secret to joy. It is also the secret to removing resentment.

Focus on today and all the positive things you have around you and you’ll soon move on from the grudge that has already consumed too much of your time.

Focus on the Present

Resentment is all about the past. You are holding onto something that is already done and dusted.

You need to bring your thoughts up to date and everything that is happening in your world at this very moment.

What book will I read to my son at bedtime tonight? Where can I take the kids for a bike ride at the weekend?

Those are the kind of questions that need my attention.

When Mr. McCourt uttered that phrase about the poison, I imagine it was the result of a great deal of personal struggle and frustration in his life. I bet he got to a point where he said:

“Why am I doing this? Why am I sabotaging my own life based on the actions of others?”

Focus on the present and more positive aspects of your life.

Lean Backwards

I heard Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul, say that if you are facing a tough situation, you should:

“…lean back and let it pass.”

He disconnects himself from a difficult situation, leans back and then he views his life for what is it. The incident is happening in front of him and he is looking at it from afar.

This is also a great way to handle a grudge. Remove yourself from it and look at it from a distance.

A grudge will feed itself within you until it is twice or ten times its original size. When you feed a grudge, you are feeding the dark instead of the light.

You need to step back from these moments. What happened at the time may have been terrible, but what is happening now? Right at this moment in your life?

All of our lives are so busy these days that none of us have enough free time to be wasting it on one single moment.

Lean back, disconnect from the grudge and then live in the current day.

Yes, this is Tough ADVICE

Yes, Mr. McCourt is right and yes, this is hard advice to hear. I struggle with this all the time.

What I’ve found, though, is that if you chip away at these things, one ordinary day at a time, you make progress.

Grudges are like giant icebergs looming out of the water. I chip away by focusing on my own life or by helping those around me. Do this for a few days and you will see an improvement.

The grudge might still be out there, but you can feel it is starting to float away. It is no longer the main thing in your life and after time, it may disappear over the horizon and out of view forever.

Life is hard enough without holding onto resentment. Leave the past where it belongs and move towards joy.