Can Your Grudges Be Making You Sick?
Forgive and Forget – that’s what “they” say. Often, a lot easier said than done! But, is there something to that old saying? Could it be that by not forgiving and forgetting, the grudge could be making you sick?
It was Mother’s Day – a time for a loving visit with my mother in Ohio – the last thing on my mind was an altercation with a family member! We had experienced a harmonious family day and I was looking forward to the next day’s activities. That’s when my teenaged daughter made a comical comment to someone and it was taken completely out of context. This family member then spoke harshly to my daughter and to me. The words she said stung and hurt deeply. No matter how we reasoned with her, she refused to budge off of her position. She then attempted to draw other family members into the drama, but to no avail. At that point, the atmosphere became so heated, it appeared my daughter and I would have to leave for our home in Tennessee at almost midnight!
As I began packing my suitcase to leave, my compassionate teenager reminded me that God loved us all and that we were here for her grandmother and that leaving would grieve Mom on Mother’s Day far more than this episode had. She begged me to reconsider. Wow! Leave it to a child to remind me that I was choosing to neither feel nor express God’s love.
Long story short, we stayed and had a pleasant next day with family. When it was time to leave, I hugged my relative and verbally accepted her somewhat weak apology, but brought the hurt in my heart home with me.
Over the next weeks and months, I struggled with it, feeling sick and having pains around my heart every time I thought about future family get-togethers. I prayed for God to help me see her as He sees her – good and loved. I held to scriptures such as “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew) I wanted to be a peacemaker, but it seemed I was a grudge-maker instead!
To make matters worse, conversations with my mother always included mentioning this other family member. I could tell the conflict was weighing heavy on her and she was extremely sad about it since the holidays were approaching.
And, then I happened upon an article written by a colleague where she tells about healing from a confrontation she had had with someone. I knew that same strength and resolution that came from her Christian practice was available to anyone, including me, if I was willing to let go of the grudge I was holding!
An article entitled Taking Offense by Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy included two lines that really spoke to me: “The mental arrow shot from another’s bow is practically harmless unless our own thought barbs it.” and “…we can hardly afford to be miserable for the faults of others.”
I concluded that forgiving my relative didn’t mean she had to change her position, or her behavior, concerning the subject about which we argued. That wasn’t the point. I had to pray to change my reaction!
In my endeavor to forgive, I also happened upon a Mayo Clinic article where they document studies that suggest that forgiveness leads to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
I certainly wanted to experience all these results! At the same time, I truly wanted to forget this whole thing had never happened. But, I couldn’t forget it until I truly forgave her. And, when I had that “change of heart” that finally enabled me to forgive and forget – you guessed it, the physical illness, including chest pains, went away. I’ve had several phone conversations with my family member in the past few weeks and I can tell we have moved past that event.
Interestingly, this past weekend, I attended a conference in Seattle where Iyanla Vanzant was a guest speaker. You guessed it – her topic was forgiveness! She spoke about the deep hurt (and healing) that she experienced after her husband left her for her close friend. Her words reflect my sentiments exactly: “What I learned during my 30-year sojourn through the science of personal and spiritual growth and healing is that forgiveness will cure whatever ails you.”