Black Rock City,2014

I suppose some of these will be easier than others. For me, at first blush, holding a grudge hasn’t been much of a problem. There have certainly been times where things haven’t gone well in the past with bosses and family, but actively holding a grudge? It seems too time consuming for me. The definition, in case you are wondering is “a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury”

Holding a grudge reminds me of that story from Zen Shorts (great book, BTW). Stillwater the Panda tells this story.


Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk, she just shoved him out of the way and departed.

 As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”

 Right? Good stuff. Don’t hold a grudge.

Though I wonder. Is this just a matter of `semantics to some extent? Like I’d imagine only 20-30% of the population would admit to having an active grudge or ill will to someone. Maybe higher, I haven’t taken a survey. It would be those people who don’t let past wrongs go. They hold onto bad experiences like an injustice collector. Someone who allows past negative occurrences to take the driver seat on their current choices and attitude.

But for me, I don’t think I do that as much. I think there is more the tendency to evaluate a bad experience and then decide if I want to talk or interact with that person anymore. I don’t know that I would call that a grudge as much. In some ways, I defend myself by saying I’m just being smart about who I associate with in my future. Maybe you do the same.

But is that really it? Like by not calling it a grudge and just avoiding people who I don’t like, doesn’t that create a new problem? I get the comfort of the emotional high ground and just don’t interact with them anymore. I get peace. They get left confused and even more troubled (perhaps, I don’t want to overestimate the awesomeness of my presences. Perhaps they have a more peaceful life as well).

I wonder if this is more of a problem for me. Like if I actively avoid people who I’m likely to develop grudges with if I was forced to interact with them on a more regular basis. Simply avoiding someone I don’t like or who treats me poorly to avoid those early feelings of resentment and frustration. There is something that doesn’t feel healthy in that either. Like I never say anything in anger because as soon as I get angry with someone I just walk away. There is a tendency to see that as noble, when it’s really just the easy way out. A smart one, grant you. Like leaving a bad party early by sneaking out. But in the end, you still disappoint the host.

So, while I don’t think I have a grudge tendency as actively as some, I think I have more of a tendency to walk away when I feel a likelihood of finding myself in conflict with someone that could result in a grudge. Which isn’t quite a grudge, but it isn’t quite healthy, either. Its comes back to that problem I have with Buddism and desire. That the way to peace is found in never desiring something. Yes, it makes you pure, but like asceticism, it removes you from actively living as well. And from other people.

It’s easy to never drown in the ocean if you don’t live by the sea.

So, this leaves the choice. Continue to walk away or talk and interact  more, even when there is the knowledge of old traps and problems—those pre-grudge behaviors. Do you support the rights of the individual to live well and without conflict? Or do you support the induvial as part of a larger community who shares and interacts with others for the betterment of humankind? (And I realize there an inherent sense of privilege in this question asked by me—who was raised well, and loved and provided for well into my twenties, compared to someone who was abused, treated badly and lacks the luxury of reflection on a blog?)

I’m reading Middlemarch. Which is a hard and dry book, but one filled with vivid descriptions. It reminds me a bit of Brother’s K. A hard book to read, but one of my favorites (shout out to Markus for the recommendation, despite the rampant sportsball backdrop). Anyway, there was a quote I liked in Middlemarch: “Souls have complexions too, what will suit one will not suit another.” So maybe this reflection for me does not need to be utilitarian in nature. Perhaps I need to think more about not skipping ‘#2 Grudge’ and think a little more about the way I tend to move away from conflict when it benefits me, but harms the other.

I’ll think on that. My flask has sparkling wine from California in it thanks to a sweet friend’s gift around the holidays. Bubbly goodness.