Saturday, March 23, 2013

Holding Grudges

"Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent-free in your head."  –Anonymous

Today is Saturday, March 23, 2013.  

 This one has been going around the Internet for a while, and once again, it's one of those pithy quotes by that genius, Anonymous.

You can't very well stay angry with a person once you have forgotten about them, so it's true – the longer you hold a grudge, the longer you will retain the memory of whoever or whatever it is that made you mad.  The connection will remain. If you visualize that connection as a string that ties you to a person, it is a little easier to understand why it's important not to hold grudges.  There are some people who hold grudges against so many people that they are literally tied down and can't move forward.  Their anger creates a web of karma that must be balanced before the ties can be broken.

A friend of mine who was leading a spiritual study class for teenagers, was challenged to find a way to represent karmic ties in a visual way.  I thought her solution was very creative.  She went to the local ragstock store and bought several neckties.  Then she bought several pairs of scissors.  In the class, she paired the kids up and gave each pair one tie and one pair of scissors.  She told the kids these ties were "karmic ties," representing some issue between the two people.  For example, the two people might have had an argument, or one person was being unfair to the other, etc.  The pairs were to engage in a brief tug of war.  The person in each pair who was holding the scissors was to decide when to cut the tie, representing an act of forgiveness that would balance the karma between them.  Then they talked about how it feels to hang onto anger and how it feels to let go of anger.  Interestingly enough, the kids who had the scissors in their hands, and who had the option of cutting the tie felt that they had more power over the situation. 

Anger never really hurts the one you are angry with, or at least, not for long. Unresolved anger only ends up making you miserable, and that unresolved karma ensures that you will have to come back to the physical plane in another lifetime to resolve it, if not with the person you originally tangled with, then with someone else.

All religions teach that anger is not the way to solve our problems.  The Buddhists say, "You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger."   In the Christian Bible, in Job 18:4, it says, "You are only hurting yourself with your anger."

Why do people stay angry?  Anger is a child of fear.  People fear that if they let go of their anger, the person they are angry with will not be punished for whatever they did to make them mad.  They want the wrongdoer to apologize, or to at least admit that they were wrong.  They want the person they're angry with to acknowledge their suffering.

One thing about karma: it works.  Karma is an impersonal force built into the system.  It's also known as the Law of Cause and Effect.  Whatever you put out comes back to you in equal measure.  That's how Souls learn here on the physical plane. It's not really meant to be a mechanism for punishment.  Rather, it is simply a feedback device, to let you know how you're doing.  The problem is that sometimes the feedback doesn't really hit you until one or more lifetimes later.  That's why some people seem to get away with bad behavior.  Once you start having to deal with karma that you know you couldn't possibly have generated in your current lifetime, it is much easier to have faith that others will also get theirs, too, eventually.  This is not to say that we shouldn't put people in jail if they've broken the law.  Besides, if a miscreant can work off some of his negative karma in this life, so much the better.  The karmic view makes it easier not to waste our anger on someone we think might get away with negative behavior.  It also helps to answer the question of why "bad" things happen to "good" people.  A person may be "good" this time around, but he may still have a little karmic burn-off to accomplish.   One reason why people don't always get caught in the karmic web right away is that they may not be strong enough, spiritually, to handle the payback.  No problem – God has lots of time, and when the Soul is ready to learn, she will be given her lessons.  Once again, it's not really punishment.  Rather, it's a learning device.

As far as getting an apology goes, we may or may not ever get one.  For all we know, we might not have been as "in the right" as we think we were.  Also, it behooves us to ask ourselves whether we would rather make ourselves miserable because we didn't get an apology, or forget about the issue and move forward in a more peaceful frame of mind, knowing that the situation will right itself at some point.  When we wait for an apology that never comes, all we are really doing is handing over to the person we are angry with the power to make us happy or miserable.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather keep that power to myself.   Why give anyone else the power to make us miserable?

When we forgive, what we are really doing is just detaching or unplugging from our feelings of anger, hurt, resentment, etc. so that they can't dictate our responses to the situation.  Forgiveness doesn't mean that the person's actions or words toward us are erased.  Forgiveness doesn't even always mean forgetting.  Rather, it means not letting the memory trigger anger or other strong emotions.  Forgiveness doesn't mean that we have to allow the person into our life again.  And it definitely doesn't mean that we condone the person's actions or words.  What it means is that we are willing to "let go and let God."   Through the system of cause and effect, God has set in motion a perfect plan for dealing with every situation.  :-)

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