Posted by: Donna Cunningham | February 21, 2010

Grudges And Forgiveness

©2010 by guest blogger, Steven Handel

Donna says, “My tendency to form and hold onto grudges is the thing I like least about myself.  I’ve been working to overcome it for as long as I’ve known I had a Pluto. Recently I came across this post by 21-year-old Zen Buddhist, Steven Handel, who is wise beyond his years. It helped me so much that I asked his permission to share it with my readers. Here’s what Steven had to say:

Who hasn’t at one point in their life held a grudge against another? Sometimes we can hold these grudges for long periods of time and even years leading up until our death. Of course we may believe we are only acting out of principle, but we are in actuality hurting ourselves. It may seem like we are coming from a place of dignity and power, but we are only wasting our energy on things that cannot be changed.

By not forgiving others we are simultaneously denying ourselves forgiveness for our own mistakes. This hypocrisy can eat away at our spirit, cripple our ability to do good, and leave us feeling down and empty. Therefore it is important to address these feelings and find reconciliation.

So someone has hurt you. You cannot find the heart to forgive them. The very thought of what they did to you makes you sick to your stomach and you blame them for all the pain and suffering you have experienced because of them. In the moment, these feelings are rational and commonplace. It is something all humans inevitably go through. But – this too shall pass.

Forgiveness is a skill. And like any other skill it takes concentration and practice to develop. People have the capacity to do some really wretched and thoughtless acts onto other human beings. But once this is all said and done it doesn’t mean we have to stop living our lives to the fullest. Forgiveness is the key to moving on and letting go.

You too may recall past acts that have hurt yourself or others. The best thing about these acts is they are no longer here. But then why do you still suffer from their consequences?

It is because you are still carrying all the heavy weight that these experiences first bestowed upon you. What use do these attachments serve but to drain your energy? Imagine if you had the courage to forgive the person who had done this to you. You would become as light as a feather in the summer breeze.

You are still here alive and breathing. Time has already healed your wounds. Your negative thoughts are your ego telling you that you must seek revenge or justice, but you can already find content in what already is. You can even feel gratitude towards those who have hurt you. Your memory of their ignorance and ill will can become a well of knowledge for you to draw upon. You are better and more conscious because of this experience. Congratulations.

But – as valuable as it may be – it is not enough to simply learn from this experience. You must also love the person in spite of what they have done. They may have caused you pain but that is a reflection of their own suffering. Don’t pity them, but pray for their salvation. Send them your good intentions and wish for them to find true happiness.

If it is possible then contact the person and make it clear that you forgive them and that you wish them all the happiness in the world. You will immediately feel lighter and more free because of this. If you don’t have any means of communicating with the person, then meditate or pray on your good intentions. They will manifest themselves through your thoughts and actions by making you more kind and forgiving of others in the future.

As long as you are alive you are bound to run into other experiences where others might disappoint and hurt you. Use these opportunities to practice forgiveness. Through your example, you will teach others how to do the same and make the world a better place. To me, that is a much more useful and productive way to invest your energy. 

“Give away the stone,
Let the ocean take and transmutate,
This cold and fated anchor.

Give away the stone,
Let the waters kiss and transmutate,
These leaden grudges into gold.”

– “The Grudge” by the alternative rock band Tool

About the Author: Steven Handel is a 21 year old recent graduate from Binghamton University. Despite getting a degree in psychology, he also has a wide range of interests in personal growth, productivity, spirituality, philosophy, creativity, and entrepreneurship. He hopes to create his own business in mental health sometime in the near future.  His blog is The Emotion Machine.


  1. Donna, thank you so much for sharing my post! I am encouraged now to look around your blog a little more and explore – looks like a lot of useful and interesting information.

    Hope you are having a good weekend!

    • Thank you, Steven, for letting me share it with my readers. You may wish to come back and look at the comments sometime, as you seem to have struck a chord for a number of us. Donna

      • Wow, look at that response. I will try and answer some of these comments!

  2. Donna,
    This was a beautiful peace! I too have been through some MAJOR healing and on the top of my lists is forgiveness.

    Might I be so bold as to state that often people respond to us in cruel ways because we allow them to? When we do not value ourselves we often don’t put specific boundaries in place and so it is often that others realize this and “overstep” onto our nonexistent boundaries. At least this has been my experience.

    That being said, I agree. When we forgive, we release and then everyone involved is free to evolve in a manner that benefits everyone. Especially ourselves.



  3. P.S. Steve, you share your knowledge in a very kind and beautiful way. I look forward to reading more of your pieces and visiting your blog.


  4. With Pluto in the 12th (conjunct my Ascendant), square retrograde Mars in the 9th, I’ve encountered many challenging situations in my life. And because I have Neptune/Mercury/Jupiter all conjunct in Scorpio (and square my Aquarius Moon), I tend to pick up on people’s energy pretty quickly, and it’s not always positive. Earlier in my life, it was through many of these interactions that I began to recognize and acknowledge my own negative tendencies (what Jung refers to as “shadow”); in that sense, I’m grateful for being clearly shown what I did not want to be. I’ve become a kinder, more compassionate and mindful human being, due in large part to these hurtful experiences; likewise I’ve had to learn to be respectfully assertive and to respond thoughtfully, not rashly, to others’ unkindness.

    Steven is right when he says we become lighter when we let go of our bitterness and learn to forgive. My Plutonian nature can lead me down some false paths if I let it – a cold heart is closed off to all the good that life has to offer — so I’ve developed the habit of saying a prayer, asking that God bless and enlighten those that have harmed me. Some prayers are more involved than others, but at the very least, I always pray that they feel God’s grace and eternal love surrounding them. I may not feel love for them, but I do make a conscious effort not to wish them harm.

    There are times when it is both appropriate and healing to tell others we forgive them and times when it is not – I believe the Taoist proverb sums it up best: “To act sincerely with the insincere is dangerous.” Unfortunately, we live in a world where opportunistic people (those with harmful intent) often interpret kindness as weakness; I’ve learned the hard way to “never cast my pearls before swine”. I would never feed someone’s negative energy by initiating contact with a cruel, unscrupulous, unrepentant person – and sadly, such people do exist. In those cases, my blessing them and letting them go will have to suffice, and I strongly believe this is the healthiest way. I’ve also found that letter writing is helpful – I can safely pour out my thoughts as well as my forgiveness, without ever having to mail it.

    • LB, I can see that you’ve devoted a lot of thought to this issue, as I have. It seems that it’s harder for Plutonians like ourselves to stay clear of resentments and grudges–maybe the betrayals have been worse and earlier.

      For me when I am conscious of holding something against someone and I question myself as to why I can’t let go, the answer often has to do with protecting myself against further hurt, whether from the offending individual or from someone similar. And then I work with the part of myself that has already learned how to protect myself, affirming its strength. (Like NLP…NeuroLinguistic Programming technique.)

      But like you, I often find the release in prayer. I have one prayer that I just dread using because it works so well, so I don’t turn to it unless holding onto the resentment and brooding about it is worse than having to let go. I use the following:
      “Dear God of All Creation. Please
      help me not to hold anything against anybody, or pass judgement on anybody or anything. I MEAN IT, LORD!”

      That is one prayer you do not want to use unless you’re seriously ready for a turnaround! Donna

      • Hi Donna – I know you understand those Plutonian energies and I always appreciate your sharing. Sometimes I swear I can feel your warmth coming through my computer screen, so thank you.

        For the most part, I’ve been able to forgive the people who’ve hurt me — although, I still wouldn’t want to have them over for dinner, if you know what I mean — what’s been tougher for me, has been forgiving people for the everyday cruelties I’ve observed that are committed against those unable to speak on their own behalf. Most recently, I’ve seen subtle (and not so subtle) forms of abuse and neglect involving fragile, dying, elderly people and it’s a hard thing to come to terms with. And knowing that it still goes on and probably always will, despite my best efforts, makes it that much harder to let go. It almost feels as if it’s not my place to forgive. This is the nature of living a life without illusion. This 12th house Plutonian knowledge I have is both a blessing and a curse, although I wouldn’t ever want to go back to not knowing. Maybe I’ll give your prayer a try – I pray all the time anyway. Thanks again.

      • Oh, my, I have been getting creepy feelings about Pluto in Capricorn and the treatment of the elderly. If Pluto is what we resent or use as a target of projection, and Capricorn represents the older years, it doesn’t bode well for the elderly. We already see it in elder abuse and in the way they are targets of frauds and scams. I worry about the viab8ility of Social Security and Medicare, not immediately, but over the next few years as our national debt starts to come due. Donna

      • Or maybe the way we treat the elderly (and the institutions that care for them) will be “transformed” while Pluto is in Capricorn. Another thing to pray for. LB

      • Hmm. Would that be a transformation in the same sense that Pluto in Sagittarius transformed education, law, publishing, and religion? I can’t say any of that worked out too well. Donna.

      • Good point. Sad, depressing point, but you’re right.

  5. Thank you, Steve & Donna,

    This is just what I needed to hear. It’s become obvious lately that these grudges are hurting me. I think that’s the good news.
    I’m working with pine for self forgiveness and willow to help me forgive others. I understand that these thoughts are my ego, but letting go has been difficult. Oh, that ego!
    I’m hoping that over time, the essences will let me lessen my clutch on these thoughts. Thank you for giving me an action step that I can actually take – To love the person and send them good wishes. I’ll be working on this immediately!

    Thanks again. Blessings,

    • Oh, yes, yes, yes. Thank you, Robin, for mentioning Willow and Pine, the Bach remedies available at most health food stores. Pine was the very first remedy I ever took, quite skeptically, and it worked so well on guilt that I was a convert.

      Before that I was guilt on the hoof, walking around looking for something to feel guilty about. Afterwards, I was a much freer person. Folks, look in the category Healing Tools for articles about flower essences, including a download from my ebook about essences. Donna

  6. This article touches on one of the aspects I try to instill in the novice writers I coach – Taking a sense memory or a scenario from our lives and viewing it so that they can write about it from “the other’s” point of view. Empathy is a good step to follow towards forgiveness – even if that forgivenss is for ourselves.
    We can fill journal after journal with stories of how we were abused and hurt by others. But how many of us wish to visit, unreservedly, the mind and emotions of who WE have hurt?

    • Interesting you mention this as I recently had an incredibly overwhelming experience of empathy the other night. It brought me to hours of tears and feelings of regret. When we hurt others, we really hurt ourselves – whether we express that hurt or not. I’m glad it finally came out of me. It was a very therapeutic experience, and I am more empowered because of it!

  7. My grudge is my friend, so are strong emotions. They tell me something is not okay with how I am being treated. We must be careful not to move into forgivess as a way of denying or not taking needed action, or not protecting ourselves.

    • Oh, I’m not suggesting we move into phony or vapid forgiveness or become doormats. I’m just saying that by dwelling on a grudge rather than releasing it, we let the b$#ds take us hostage and destroy any peace of mind we may have.

      By dialoguing with the part of ourselves that feels the need to protect us through brooding on the hurt, we come to realize and embrace the strength we have to discern when we are in danger of being hurt and then take action to stop it.

      We can be strong and self-protective without going around with a chip on our shoulder all the time. At least that is my aim through the work I do on myself about resentments and grievances. Donna

    • Be vigilant and learn from your experience — but clinging to grudges? Huge waste of energy.

      • Thanks for coming back and adding your insights, Steven. I was hoping you would. (Steven is the author of the post, folks.) Donna

      • We do not cling to grudges they cling to us because they are messengers that there is unfinished business. Finish the business and the grudge has no need to be there and lets go.

      • Robin, I like that very much! Donna

  8. Aloha Donna All this talk about elder abuse is scary as I am entering my 70’s, and have experienced for the past few years, an increased tendency for people who are younger (say 30 to 50) to be downright nasty, mean or disrespectful to older folks, me included.

    And it’s hard for me to understand why some of them seem to be so impatient, especially at street crossings where they honk loudly, or rev their motor up if you’re not crossing fast enough for them (even tho the traffic light gives you 20 seconds to cross).

    Maybe its the current transit of Saturn in Libra square Pluto in Capricorn that has a lot of folks riled up and angry, and projecting that anger onto the senior citizens who they begrudge having the ability to receive the benefits of Soc.Sec. and Medicare.

    Sadly to say, it was never that way in the State of Hawai’i, where youngsters are brought up to show caring, compassion and respect for elders. These qualities are growing less and less important as people here are struggling to make a living, support themselves and keep their homes from foreclosure. What I do is say a few prayers each morning and evening that our Creator will grant each one of us wisdom, strength and courage to meet the demands of our present cycles. Meleanna

    • It is very sad, yes, Meleanna. Something we need to look at anyway, for ignoring things doesn’t make them go away. Perhaps those of us who have elders around us can be alert to anything like con artists who prey on them, and by warning them and watching out for them, we can protect them. Donna

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