How Murder Mysteries Taught Me to Let Go of Grudges

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year watching British murder mystery series: Miss Marple, Midsomer Murders, that sort of thing. My body has been sore, and I’ve had a lot of brain fog, which makes reading and writing hard to sustain. So, when I can’t sleep, it’s a good old British mystery for me.

After a while, you start to notice recurring themes. I mean, week after week, season after season, how many different methods and motives can anyone come up with? So, there’s the greed that leads to murder. Nasty, arrogant people who believe they deserve more from life than they’re getting. I’m always glad when they get caught.

Then there’s the secret that must be kept at all costs. I feel sorry for those people. They’re so ashamed of something in their past, so afraid of being found out.

Aside from not liking greedy people and feeling sorry for the shame-filled, I don’t feel like those storylines reflect my life in any way.

But one theme hauled me up short. That was where the murderer had been bullied or betrayed years ago and carries a grudge, letting it fester and grow until they meet up with the wrongdoer again, and mayhem ensues. They kill the bully and, if it’s Midsomer Murders, a whole bunch of other people too (what is in the drinking water in that county???).

Satisfactorily, the murderer always gets caught, and when they do, they shriek repeatedly about how this person deserved to die because “They ruined my ENTIRE LIFE!!!!!!!”

And after rolling my eyes at yet one more justification, the little voice in my head said, “But you carry grudges from way back when. How is that so different?”

Sometimes I really hate the little voice in my head.

And, OK, I don’t actually kill the people who I think wronged me because I don’t live in a British murder mystery. But I carry the grudges, keeping a close inventory, turning them over in my mind, jingling them like loose change in my pocket.

Carrying grudges causes harm. Mostly to yourself. They constrict your heart, making you less generous, both to others and to you. It may not lead to murder, but it’s not vibrant life either. It doesn’t kill other people, but it does kill your joy. You sacrifice the present moment for your hurtful past.

And I finally saw that so clearly that I was embarrassed. It’s cringe-worthy how adamantly I’ve been hanging onto some of the wrongs others have done me. It’s like, they did whatever they did, and instead of saying, “Wow, that was wrong,” and moving on, I rolled up my sleeves and held myself in that moment forever.

Meanwhile, the objects of my grudges go on with their lives, completely unaware. And no, that’s not fair. People should feel bad when they hurt us, and if we’re in an ongoing relationship with them, they need to understand what they’ve done and stop doing it, or we need to walk away.

But once that’s happened and we’ve had a chance to heal, then we need to cast it aside, or we run the risk of ruining our ENTIRE LIFE.

You’ve seen it happen with your friends, right? The bad marriage that ended years ago but comes up in every conversation. The opportunity missed because of a relationship that eventually failed. And then the opportunity is only ever revisited as a way of heaping regret onto themselves.

When you notice that, it’s good to ask yourself how many times you do that in your own life. You might not like the answer (I sure didn’t), but it can help you move on.

I don’t know what to suggest if you have a friend in that situation, but if you are the friend in that situation, do what you need to do to let it go. A competent therapist can help you work through it, take the charge out of it, and leave the past behind.

I’m learning to notice when I’m jingling the coins of my grudges. I roll my eyes at myself and scatter them on the road where they can’t weigh me down.

They’re not gone completely. Forgiveness isn’t amnesia. I can still find them when I need to. When I’m in a situation that rings warning bells, I don’t need to repeat the hurtful experiences of my past. I’ve learned from those experiences and become stronger. But I don’t need to keep them with me at all times, turning them over and over in my mind until they become worn and grubby. I can let the grudges go and trust that the lessons will stay with me to serve me and keep me from harm.

This isn’t about spiritual bypassing or denying that I’ve been hurt. It may not even be about forgiveness. That’s a long, difficult road that can take a lifetime to travel.

This is just about laying down a burden without the need for an apology or reparation. Most of the people who have hurt me aren’t in my life anymore. I let them go because they weren’t good for me. Holding onto the memories and grudges is pointless.

Pop culture has its uses.

Photo by Kamil Feczko on Unsplash

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2 Responses to How Murder Mysteries Taught Me to Let Go of Grudges

  1. Douglass says:

    The ancient grudge, sometimes going back generations, is a mainstay of British mysteries. I wonder why.

    I’m learning, a bit late perhaps, that grudges turn your heart into something small and dark and rancid. What we have to give becomes smaller and smaller until all we are is the grudge. If we’re lucky, we will have friends who see this and help us unravel the knot around our heart.

    This has been a year of losing grudges, old traumatic ones, and fresh ones that still pinch my heart occasionally. But the journey, tough as it has been, has opened my heart. That’s quite a reward.

  2. Barb says:

    It certainly is, Douglass.

    “small and dark and rancid” is the perfect image of the grudge-filled heart. xo

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