Tapestry

How holding a grudge can be a shortcut to forgiveness

Rather than just, 'letting it go,' when we feel someone has done us wrong, author Sophie Hannah says bearing a grudge productively can validate for our sense of hurt and help us find more fulsome forgiveness.
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Conventional wisdom tells us harbouring a grudge is a pointless exercise in hanging onto negative sentiments.

Best-selling crime fiction writer Sophie Hannah tells us something completely different.

"I've been someone, for a long time, who has experienced firsthand that holding grudges in the right way is actually a very positive and benign force in anybody's life."

[Grudges] are not feelings. They're stories- Sophie Hannah

Hannah departed from the her usual literary genre to write the newly published nonfiction, How to hold a grudge: From resentment to contentment — The power of grudges to transform your life.

She joined Tapestry host Mary Hynes to share her unconventional view on grudges and says it's all about how you define them.

"Most dictionary definitions say that a grudge is a feeling of hostility ... anger ... resentment."

But that misses the mark, she said.

Sophie Hannah's crime novels include three Hercule Poirot mysteries written with the blessing of the Agatha Christie estate. (Onur Pinar)

"[Grudges] are not feelings. They're stories."

For Hannah, a grudge is a story about a time when someone did wrong by her. She hangs onto the story as a cautionary tale she can learn from — a roadmap for how to handle similar situations in the future.

For example, there's the grudge she bears against her close friend Alex.

"I have a very specific grudge about Alex and it is this: whenever anything bad happens to me or if I'm in any kind of position of weakness or vulnerability where I really need support, if I go to Alex and try and talk to him, he will always say the very thing most likely to make me feel worse. And I've no idea why,"Hannah said.

The pattern with Alex played out numerous times, each time making her feel "maximally awful," she described

The self-help books she turned to counsel people to forgive and forget. But that wasn't working.

So, she embraced her grudge against Alex, hanging onto each time he'd made her feel bad.

She found that rather than miring her in negativity, the stories validated her feelings and made her feel better.

"That then makes me feel Alex hasn't got away with this behavior ... it's not as though it never happened or it didn't matter. And that enables me to move on from the negative feelings much more quickly and to forgive Alex emotionally."

Hannah said that the resentment towards Alex is out of the way, she's got her grudge stories to remind her he's not the person to go to when she needs support.


Click "listen," above, to hear the interview. 

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