Do you hold grudges?
“What the hell are you even saying?” my table neighbor, Mary, said to me, before she smashed down her bright yellow Ticonderoga pencil roughly into her addition worksheet, marring the pristine paper with rough etchings that resembled letters more than numbers.
It was first grade, one of the few peaceful years before the impending doom of high school where, unfortunately, Mary’s hastily written letters could actually become a part of math homework (I hate you too, Algebra 2).
“It’s Vietnamese!” I exclaimed, puffing my chest out to make myself look bigger and more dignified to my much taller table mates. “It’s a really easy language, like my mom is called mẹ, and my dad is called–,” and before I could finish explaining the things I wanted to teach about the language my family spoke at home to my fellow classmates, they started saying things like “Ching Chong,” making clucking noises to imitate my first language, calling me “Ling Ling,” and even bringing their fingers to their eyes in order to squeeze them into small slits. They were ridiculing my culture and making a mockery of not only Vietnamese people, but Asian people in general.
Although I would like to say that I was brave and defended my people’s honor by doing something like stabbing a pencil through Mary’s hand to establish my dominance in the classroom, I did the first thing that came to mind. As I would do to this day, being the worldly 16 year old I am, my sophisticated 5 year old self curled up into fetal position and cried on the ground, wailing for my mẹ.
Being one of the few Asian-Americans in my classroom, I already was nervous. My classes beforehand did not thoroughly prepare me for this difference in social interaction as I thought it would. Who knew preschool and kindergarten didn’t do much?
Even after my mother angrily barged in the classroom forcing poor Mrs. Baker to illicit an apology out of my classmates’ racist mouths; I was appeased for the time being, yet when the incident repeated itself on a bus to the park, except with the entirety of the first grade class and not just Mrs. Baker’s class, I became petty and childish, like a 5 year old would. Anytime Mary asked for help, I might accidentally slam a book on her hand (it was a twitch I couldn’t really control, I swear), or if Brian wanted to be partners on a project, I might have potentially stomped on his foot with my cream-colored, light-up Skechers.
It was first grade when I learned about holding grudges.
My mother, after threatening to throw a slipper at me if I kept hurting my classmates, told me that holding in my anger and keeping grudges so close to my heart would do only harm to myself. I was always told to simply forgive and forget. Begrudgingly I would follow my mother’s rules, despite how badly I wanted for the people who hurt me to feel the same despair, pain, and misery I had felt.
All jokes aside, it hurt like nothing else to have your entire identity be ridiculed and made to look like a joke. In a language I grasped not too long beforehand, I wanted to only make friends, and yet was treated with mockery, so it was always strange to me the concept of “forgiveness.”
Why would I want to forgive someone and forget what they did if they did not do anything to earn my forgiveness?
It has been revealed that between 50 and 80 percent of people have experienced something traumatic in their lives. Often times, this trauma is caused by someone close to the victim – friends and family. People can easily form life-long grudges from being abused so devastatingly by someone they believed they could trust. These people felt their trust slip through out of their hands and promptly stomped on. It is completely understandable as to why some people hold grudges for years on end, I mean, who could you blame for wanting to hate someone who hurt you traumatically?
When we talk about grudges we see the endless amount of articles aimed towards “Helping You Get Rid of Your Grudges” or “How to Let those Pesky Grudges Go.” Holding grudges has been revealed to potentially harm your health, and many physicians advise the “forgive and forget” method to help people move on from the hodge-podge of resentful feelings that could have developed over the years.
Moreover, the statistics and numbers don’t lie, people who tend to hold grudges experience higher rates of heart disease, extreme levels of blood pressure, back problems, and chronic pain.
Someone abused by their parents or family, someone raped by someone they could trust, someone who was forced to hurt by someone they thought they needed in their life.
How could we expect them to so easily forgive and forget?
I think that if our society is continually teaching the “forgive and forget” ideology and impressing the idea of forgetting so easily on others, will it ever be genuine? How can someone forget the sheer amount of hatred and anger felt towards a person who hurt and made someone feel so hopeless they could only turn to resentment? Grudges are harmful, but what’s more harmful is the implication that forgetting is more important than healing. By continually encouraging immediate forgiving and forgetting, how can someone take the time to find it in themselves to truly, wholly, and unabashedly forgive and forget and move forward to healing themselves to become better people?
I never truly forgot what my first grade class said or did, and it has helped me connect with many other Asian-Americans who were subjected to the same kind of taunting and derision. I don’t think I would be forgetting about that incident
I believe there is something very wrong with telling people when it is they should forgive and how quickly they should recover. I’m not advocating for holding grudges, but I think that aftereffects of a grudge could potentially spark healing and working towards to becoming better.