There isn't a person among us who hasn't, at some point or another, harbored a grudge towards another person. Just as likely, we've all also been on the receiving end of grudges during the course of our lives. Before I start explaining what causes and sustains grudges, let me first explain how I define the concept of a grudge so we are all on the same page. A grudge is in play when an individual experiences resentment toward another as a result of some sort of grievance. And, let me tell you, grudges can be short-lived or run the course of a lifetime. They can be very painful for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons that they may be painful is because we are not always sure why we are experiencing them as the deliverer or as the recipient. Additionally, grudges can lead to the loss or destruction of important relationships.
Let me start out by saying that yes, some people are more likely than others to hold grudges because of their temperamental styles and ability/inability to negotiate conflict. Some of us have a more difficult time discussing our emotions with those we believe have wronged us and engage instead in avoidant behavior. When this occurs we sometimes forget why we were upset in the first place but we always remember how others made us feel. Today we will stick to discussing the reasons for grudges. How to deal with grudges is another post entirely.
There are an endless number of reasons for grudges. For today, I am just going to stick with the most common.
1. Misunderstandings and Assumptions
Sometimes we erroneously assume that others have bad intentions towards us when that is not the case. And, if we don't discuss intent, we project all sorts of negative intentions onto others. Hence, we feel wronged—and a grudge is born.
2. Unrealistic Expectations
Many of us have high expectations for others and when they don't deliver we become insulted, disappointed, or disenchanted. In my experience, it is often the emotionally generous among us who are vulnerable to these feelings. You give and become distressed when there is not an adequate amount of reciprocation.
3. Feeling Left Out
This is a very broad category. Perhaps you feel used, exploited, ignored, or even unattended to. You have contacted a friend numerous times who responds only when he or she needs you. Or, you didn't receive an invitation to a group activity. I don't think that I know anyone who celebrates feeling unacknowledged and even invisible, but this brings us back to #1. It is possible that your friend is preoccupied or even assumed that you would have declined the invitation. You see, the fuel for grudges can include a smattering of grievances from different categories.
4. Being Disgusted/Reaching a Limit
Sometimes we have experienced a number of hurtful interactions with others and we reach our own personal threshold for what we can tolerate. I see this in marriages and dating relationships where one member of the couple has just decided that enough is enough. Sometimes people report having little energy remaining for another person's behavior. Exhaustion and mental depletion have set in.
Envy is often involved when relationships go awry and grudges become entrenched. Certainly, we should be celebrating each other's successes, but this is a tall order for many of us. Sadly, it is sometimes easier to be available when others are suffering than when they are succeeding. This category is complicated and taps into our own deep-seated self-esteem issues.
I would like to leave you with some food for thought. Take some time to digest the above-mentioned ideas and how they may be playing out in your own lives.