In small towns and villages in Peru, on the 25th of December, there is an annual tradition that is upheld. It is not the lighting of a Christmas tree nor is it the anticipation of a bearded old man coming down a chimney. It is the tradition of Takanakuy. In the Quechua language, it translates to “when blood is boiling.”
It is a festival that goes on for days. There is music, costumes, dancing and lots of drinking. Men, women, old and young participate. Then comes the bizarre part: They all meet in a bull ring, and beat each other up. So if you live in Peru, and you have a grudge against someone, an unresolved issue that needs to be settled, Takanakuy is your chance to square up and resolves it with a good ‘old beat down. Issues range from stolen property to a stolen girlfriend or boyfriend. A referee monitors the fight and determines the winner. Whether you win or lose, you hug it out, and you share a drink afterward. It is a way to guarantee a new year with a clean slate, free from the emotional baggage from last year and the metaphorical hatchet buried.
In a place where access to lawyers is nearly impossible, Takanakuy works for that small group of Peruvians. However, scheduling a beat down to work out your grudges in the U.S. may not be the best option for you… you know, for legal reasons. So let’s talk what we know about grudges for a moment…
They haunt. Grudges are these annoying little feelings that left unaddressed will continue to haunt you and your relationships. They creep up on you, looming over every conversation, corrupting every word, marring every nonverbal gesture. Like a parasite, it takes over and feeds on you, growing larger and larger until you explode.
It is the Carrier who is Cursed. No matter how angry you are at the person who slighted you or disrespected you, a grudge is like a self-inflicted curse; the only one it hurts is you… Think about it: the person who you’re mad at has no idea… As long as it remains a grudge, it is a non-issue (except for you, of course.) As long as it remains in your head, it is a burden that you must carry… alone.
They are Tricksters. Grudges affect your ability to see things for what they truly are. With anger, hurt and pain it’s hard to see things in a clear, lucid light. Everything is distorted and blurred by the thoughts and emotions churning within you. Nothing makes sense.
So what is the cure? How do we free ourselves from the haunting of a grudge? Obviously, it’s not so simple. Well, as with most things, the first step is recognizing that you have a problem. Emphasis on the YOU. Despite whatever wrongdoing, the other person has done, or the pain that they have caused, the grudge that you hold is only tearing you up inside. So it is when you realize that the problem is your own, it is then that you will find the motivation to solve this problem.
The next step is to perform an exorcism! No, not one with priests and chants or prayers… You need to get that lingering spirit out of your soul. There are two ways you can do that.
What’s amazing is that when we stop for a moment to analyze our thoughts and emotions, they morph from this tangled mess of Christmas lights into something that starts to make sense. When you take a moment to write mindfully, you give yourself an opportunity to actually process your emotions. It is possible that by simply writing out your frustrations will bring you peace. If it does not, think about turning that journal entry into a letter, directed towards the person who has slighted you. Again, simply writing the letter may be satisfaction enough. But before you begin any correspondence, remember that grudges are tricksters!! Have someone you trust review/proofread before sending it out, or better yet, use the letter as a guide for when you contact your offender on the phone or in person. When it comes to basic communication, if possible, in person trumps technology, hands down.
Another way of dealing with your grudge is radical acceptance. Many times, our frustrations come from what should or should not have happened, and we lose track of what is. Keep in mind that acceptance does not imply compliance, it is letting go of the idea that the past is something that can be changed. It is the moment that you let go of the past that you truly become free. Your past dictates your future only if you let it.
Oftentimes grudges are concocted by a simple misunderstanding. Did you know that we are wrong over 50% of the time when attributing intent to the emotions we perceive from others? This means that when you see a person who is angry if he’s even angry at all (who knows, he could easily be constipated) we assume and attribute some sort of reasoning for his anger. “He must be angry because I didn’t invite him to the party last night.” And it doesn’t help that we tend to be a bit egocentric, causing the emotions of others to easily be perceived as a personal attack. So what’s the solution? Get a better understanding through empathy. Maybe that’s all you will need to get an “aha” moment that may make you realize that you had no reason to be mad in the first place.
The best and steadfast treatment for a grudge is forgiveness. We are all human, and we make mistakes. It is just as unfair to crucify an individual for their errors as it would be for you to crucify yourself. If you can forgive yourself, you can forgive another.
So let’s take a lesson from the Quechua Peruvians. We may not go as far as starting brawls in bullpens, but we can start making a conscious effort to letting go of our animosity and bitterness towards others. Let’s not carry the burden of resentment year after year. Instead, let us relieve ourselves of this unnecessary weight and let go. So this Thanksgiving, when you go around the table and talk about what you ar thankful for, take that opportunity to also let go of your grievances. You may be a few pounds heavier, but you will also find that your spirit is much lighter.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh