How to Let Go of Grudges and Resentment

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Effortless" by Greg McKeown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you find it difficult to forgive people who’ve wronged you in some way? How does holding grudges prevent you from being happy and productive?

Holding grudges is an unhealthy psychological tendency that harms no one but yourself. When we cling to grudges and emotional burdens, we become stuck in the past, unable to fully move forward with our lives.

Here’s how to let go of grudges and resentment, according to Greg McKeown.

Letting Go of Grudges

The first step to letting go of grudges is to ask ourselves what emotional need our grudges are filling. If we can better understand why we’re holding a grudge, it will be easier to let it go. Here are a few key reasons we hold on to grudges:

They give us a sense of power: When we hold a grudge, it’s often because we feel we’ve been wronged. Holding the grudge makes us feel like we’re in the right and superior to the one who wronged us. In reality, the grudge holds power over us, not the other way around.

They garner sympathy from others: Grudges can also be used to express our victimhood. When we share our grudges with others, it can help us feel supported in a time of vulnerability.

They justify our fear or mistrust: Sometimes we hold a grudge so we have a reason to hold on to negative emotions like fear, anger, or resentment. But if we can’t let go of the grudge, the negative feelings we associate with them will stay with us, as well. In the end, the only person a grudge hurts is you.

How to Forgive

McKeown gives us ways to identify why we hold grudges. Here are some other tips on how to let go of grudges from You Are a Badass

  • Develop compassion: It will be hard to forgive someone unless you can empathize with their situation. Understand that whoever wronged you probably acted out of fear or was dealing with their own hardships.
  • Focus on yourself: While it’s easy to blame others, focusing on your reaction is most important because it’s the only thing you can control. Try to see irritating situations or people as opportunities for growth.
  • Don’t worry about being right: One reason we’re duped into holding onto a grudge is our tendency to focus on right and wrong. You may be right about a person or situation, but that isn’t going to change anything. 
  • Let it in, then let it out: Sometimes, the only way to get rid of a negative emotion is to embrace it. If that means you have to scream into a pillow, so be it. Just make sure you aren’t causing harm or stress to yourself or others, and after you embrace the anger, let it go.
  • Forget about it: A key part of forgiveness is wiping the slate clean. Try not to judge people by their previous actions and focus on the now.
How to Let Go of Grudges and Resentment

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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