When do you forgive a grudge and move on?
I recently traveled to Cuba on a People to People tour. I learned a lot about USA/Cuban relationships or lack thereof. Part of what I learned was how the USA has been holding a grudge against the Cuban people since 1959, 55 years! That’s a long time to hold a grudge and it got me wondering why. I’m reminded of the stories of the Hatfields and McCoys; families holding multi-generational grudges against one other.
When Castro won the revolution in 1959, he kicked all the Capitalists out of the country, closed the Casinos and nationalized all of the hotels and other property. This rightfully pissed off the American Capitalists who lost their profitable businesses without being compensated and felt cheated and betrayed.
The USA government responded by imposing the embargo on Cuba: no travel, no trade and no money can flow between the two countries. Except for a few minor modifications, like People to People, the embargo still stands today. 55 years later Cuba has moved on. They’ve formed business and strategic partnerships with Europe, China, Japan, India, Mexico, Venezuela and others. The USA remains stuck in the grudge.
Cuba is a beautiful country with wonderful people and I highly recommend visiting there if you can. During my time there, I was able to talk to various Cubans and learn what this grudge-match looks like from Cuban side; less than 100 miles from Key West. The Cuban people I talked to seemed genuinely baffled by the USA’s ongoing grudge. I learned that the Cuban government has extended an olive branch to the USA government several times, including to help stop South American drug smugglers from getting to the USA. These offers of cooperation are rejected each time.
This got me thinking about grudges, why we start them and why we hold them. Fear and anger are the emotions propelling a grudge. We start a grudge when we think we’ve been wronged or threatened. In 1959, the US government felt that its citizens had been wronged by Castro and also felt threatened. After all it was in the middle of the cold war.
Holding a Grudge verses Angry, Hurt and Sad
I’ve been betrayed several times in my life by someone I love and trust and initially reacted in anger. It’s during this angry period that grudges get started. If I can’t move from anger to sadness by recognizing that the person who betrayed me is struggling with something and not managing it well, then I start to hold a grudge. During the anger period, I want to get even, to hurt that person like they hurt me and let them know what it feels like!
Funny, but at the same time I also want to convince them they are wrong and get them to take me back while still being mad at them at the same time. If I can get them to do what I want then I don’t have to be mad at them anymore.
If they don’t change their mind, then my anger has to transition to sadness and then forgiveness and moving on without that person in my life. If it doesn’t, then the grudge-match is on.
Why Hold a Grudge?
Once a grudge gets started, our ego gets invested in it. In other words we want to win. I’m going to hold a grudge against you until you admit I was right and you were wrong. I’m going to get even! If I “cave” and admit that maybe both of us were somewhat wrong, I’ll look weak so I will never do that! So the “grudge” in this case Cuba basically says F-you. I don’t need you. I can get along just fine on my own! And that is how things stood until the 1990s when Cuba asked to bury the hatchet. So far the USA has refused to forgive and continues to hold the grudge.
One thing I find myself saying to many of my clients is that fear is a normal part of the human experience and there’s nothing wrong with feeling afraid. But don’t let the fear make the decisions or you will live a life of fear. Fear is information; data to be analyzed. It’s nothing more. Grudges are fueled by fear. They start with fear and then they are fueled by more fear, topped with anger, resentment and mistrust. Your fear is in charge and causes you to mistakenly believe that you are keeping you or your loved ones safe by continuing the grudge. Unfortunately, it’s also wearing you out.
The Cost of Holding a Grudge
Grudges don’t come cheap. Holding a grudge is stressful, tiring and eats away and your ability to be compassionate and kind to others. This process poisons your own soul and you become a bitter, distrustful and angry person. As long as the grudge is in place there is no possible way to fix the relationship with the other person.
Grudges end when the parties can talk to each other and find out there is nothing to fear. In fact, the two sides often find that they have a lot of mutual interests and both parties can make things better by cooperating instead of feuding. But fear will keep them apart.
For the USA and Cuba?
If the two sides can’t make up, eventually they move on without each other and often at a fairly high cost. Cuba has moved on. They’ve formed business alliances with Japan, Korea, China, western Europe and India to help them with their development.
The USA is completely left out and if the grudge continues will have little to say in the future about how one of our closest neighbors runs their affairs and will receive no economic benefit from this neighbor just 90 miles to the south of us.
Are you working on a grudge and wanting to let go? Contact me and I’ll talk to you about helping you move past your grudge.
This article was originally published at Larry Cappel Your Denver Counseling . Reprinted with permission from the author.