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Health Alert! Holding a grudge may cut your life short.

Updated on March 7, 2014

Why the long face?

Have you ever asked yourself why you're still angry with someone? What do you actually get out of it besides feeling vengeance for what they did to you? Do you even remember why you were angry at them in the first place? We've all been hurt, disappointed, deceved, rejected, and so forth and it warrants feeling of anger or resentment. But how far do you take it until it becomes too far? These are questions you have to ask yourself if you want to be happy and live life to the fullest. The effects of carrying a grudge definitely has its effects because of the other things it's attached to, such as resentment. Harboring these emotions can lead to detrimental effects on your health. So you should examine whether or not its worth the pain and adverse effects on your body.

It takes energy to be happy, but it takes even more energy to hold a grudge. Keeping this negative energy for so long can be strenuous on your emotions and mental health. Ultimately, there are physical effects as a result of the mental and emotional strain. If you're ready to free yourself from this intense burden on your body, there are several things that should be looked at first.

Detrimental effects to the body

Physical effects of negative emotions
Elevated heart rate
High blood pressure
Increased risk of heart disease
Digestive problems
Weakened immune system

Scientific data

A study conducted in 2008 showed that people who didn't forgive had more physical ailments compared to those who forgave. Holding onto a grudge produces unforgiveness which leads to mental and physical sickness, namely depression and heart disease. Further studies show a chain reaction on the body as a result of unforgiveness. When a person is holding a grudge, the emotional part of the person is obviously affected. As time goes on, this emotional burden starts to affect the psychological part of the person. The muscles react to this occurrence, which brings on tension of muscles, especially in the face. Soon thereafter the heart is affected by the burden and tension along with raised blood pressure. The more negative energy produced by the body, the more the heart reacts.

Researchers also state that when a person is holding a grudge, they take on the victim mode, rehearse the offense in their minds repeatedly in order to feel a sense of control. To them, it's seen as some type of emotional benefit. But holding onto the grudge equates to committing to staying angry about the situation. The most common "offenders" - those who cause the hurt are primarily family members, romantic partners, and friends. The most common type of offences included betrayal, insults, and lies.

To prove the connection between grudges and heart disease, 27 people were tested on their reactions to certain images. The participants provided researchers information on a hurtful situation. The researchers then produced images of the stories that would remind the participants of the person (or situation) that hurt them. Some participants had forgave the person, while others still held on to the hurt. When questioned, the subjects showed reactions as they answered the questions and looked at the negative images. There were aroused emotions of anger, sadness, and a sense of not being in control. Muscle tension was also noted among the subjects who reacted to the negative imagery. By the end of the study it was concluded that the negative reactions were only a minimal occurrence compared to what they subjects go through on a daily basis. Heart rates are increased and blood pressures are raised when they replay the offense in their mind. This ultimately leads to health issues.

Holding onto grudges for so long can cause you to feel trapped and frustrated.
Holding onto grudges for so long can cause you to feel trapped and frustrated. | Source
Letting go of old hurt opens up a whole new world of serenity.
Letting go of old hurt opens up a whole new world of serenity. | Source

My personal experience

No one is perfect, including me. I'm not ashamed to say that I've held grudges for too long. It got to a point where they were piling up and I forgot some of them were even there. But I couldn't function to my full potential, nor could I interact properly with people around me. I was giving off very negative vibes, and it affected important relationships in my life. I couldn't communicate properly or get my point across, and it made me more angry, taking it out on innocent people. I literally started to age faster than normal, because I was carrying so much and trying to deal with so much at one time. The feelings of resentment and anger lead me to depression and I felt trapped in my own world with no way out. At first I wanted to sit back and point fingers, but I knew I played a role in my current state. A role that I could break and change what was going on within and around me before it was too late. I made a decision to be free and I had to confront what was going on with me. For those that hurt me, I faced them, told them how I felt and didn't dwell on how they would react to it. I knew that once it was off my chest, their reaction did not matter to me. Over time, as I let past situations go, I started to see a difference in ALL areas of my life. I was able to think clearly again, I can identify and express my emotions better, and I feel a physical difference. It's as if a huge burden has been lifted. I didn't realize how bad it was until I noticed people greet me now when I walk down the street. It's because I have a pleasant look on my face. This never happened to me before. In fact, people used to cross the to the other side they way I used to look so angry!

When someone hurts you, of course it's okay to be angry, but don't hold onto the anger. The worst thing you can do is let your emotions control you. Again, there is nothing wrong with emotions or reacting to what happens to you, but it becomes a tumultuous issue if you let certain types of emotions drag on. They just continue to grow and fester to the point where no one wants to be around you, interact with you, or include you in anything because of the energy you give. For the longest, you won't even realize what the problem may be. You're miserable and feeling trapped in a world that was constructed by your resentment you let build up. Don't let it get to the point where your friendships are put into jeopardy and your marriage suffers. The unhealthy emotions manifest the most in critical relationships, not when you're by yourself. If the relationships are ruined or even affected by the burden you're holding onto, then your burden will become even bigger to the point where you bodily organs start to react.

Grudges produces feeling of resentment and anger, which can lead to depression.
Grudges produces feeling of resentment and anger, which can lead to depression. | Source

Things you can do to let go

  • Vent - don't keep things to yourself. Talk with someone about it.
  • Write - writing can be a therapeutic tool for some people. If you keep a journal that's even better. But if something is frustrating you writing it down can be a form of release
  • Face the person who hurt you - think about how you can go about confronting those that hurt you. Remember your approach is important and try to do it with controlled emotions.
  • Realize your role if you've become trapped or bitter - it's not just the person who hurt you, it's also the pain you've been carrying for so long. You must realize it can't continue if you want to be happy.
  • Get out of victim mode - you've triumphed the situation, especially if you've chosen to confront or deal with it. Let go of the victim mentality and work on letting the situation go completely.
  • Forgiveness - easier said than done, but is necessary for the betterment of your life and health.

Do you love holding grudges?

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Sora, S. (2011). 5 Ways to Let Go of a Grudge. Time Healt and Family. Retrieved from

Witvliet, C.V., Ludwig, T.E., & Vander Laan, K.L. (2001). Granting forgiveness or harboring grudges: Implications for emotions, physiology, and health. Psychological Science, 12(2), pp117-123.


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    • Zainab Tarawali profile image

      Musu Bangura 3 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Thanks, Flourish Anyway! I haven't heard the Taylor Swift song, but it sounds like something that would definitely apply! I got too much to do and enjoy before leaving this place. Thanks for the vote up!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" would be the perfect addition to this! I like how you integrated your personal story with recommendations and health information. Voted up and more. Life's too short to let unimportant stuff weigh you down.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile image

      Musu Bangura 4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Hello Writingowl, thank you for your comment. I think the characteristic of holding a grudge runs in a lot of families. That's one of the reasons why so many families are destroyed. It's unfortunate, but I'm glad you were able to climb out of that hold. It's not easy, but it's possible.

      Thank you again for the feedback!

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 4 years ago from Ireland

      This article is so true Zainabtarawali. I used to hold grudges too but then I learned it was a part of me having Asperger's, so I learned how to forgive and forget. Unfortunately though these are characteristics that run in my family and there are other family members who live by holding grudges and cannot move on from them. We are talking decades here over the most minor slights.

      I just feel sorry for them now and wish them all well. As you say holding meaningless grudges just eats you up inside and achieves nothing and its so much healthier and better for you to just let go. I have said this to one family member but she has so many issues and doesn't understand others take on it, so what can you do? I know though it must be hell inside her head because I have been there. Voted up.