In my younger and more impulsive years, I used to relish holding grudges against others for long periods of time. If you made me angry or hurt me, I would lie in the cut like a hunter waiting for a deer. I would take my time. I would say nothing. I would pretend that all was well with the world. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, I’d get my revenge. I would try to hurt someone just like they’d hurt, angered or disappointed me.
I even used this tactic, believe it or not, on my own father once for reasons that I’d prefer not to share. I was warned by my elders that adopting such a strategy — holding grudges and resenting others for what they had done or had not done to or for me, would eventually bring me even greater pain. In fact, if I didn’t let it go, if I didn’t forgive and move on, it would eventually paralyze me.
Still, I really enjoyed holding onto that anger. With time, that albatross around my neck had even become both welcomed and familiar to me — resting as comfortably on my shoulders as Linus’s security blanket enveloped him. (Hopefully, you remember Linus from the Charlie Brown cartoons). I figured that since life wasn’t always fair and since some members in my family or my closest friends had done me wrong, since they’d been the cause of me being unfairly “buked and scorned,” that I could only respond by lashing out, allowing my anger to dominate my waking hours while secretly planning ways to get even.
Perhaps multiple experiences of unhealed wounds from the past serve as the source of why men beat their women even though they claim that they love them. Maybe it’s unresolved anger that makes it impossible for couples with undeniable potential to successfully combine their separate skills and gifts to collectively achieve their dreams. Could these oozing sores even be the match that has lit outbursts of irrational hatred in recent rampages in U.S. cities that include Las Vegas, Miami, Sutherland Spring, Texas, Columbine and Charleston?
Several decades ago when I was a young, eager reporter in Chicago, I had a mind-blowing conversation with Dick Gregory. His words are something I will never forget. Mr. Gregory told me that when we’re angry, cursing at the world and everyone around us, we allow toxins to build up within that soon wreak havoc on our minds, bodies and souls. On the other hand, he noted that when we smile, when we look for the positive side of situations, even when we feel like we’re trapped in the storm, that we gain new inner strength, greater focus and the power to overcome anything.
Gregory’s prophetic words would set me on an unfamiliar but blessings-laden path that had always been my destiny but one on which I had failed to embark for so many years because I had allowed roadblocks, soul-wrenching valleys and ridiculously high obstacles to get in my way, delaying me from moving forward.
Some people chose to routinely see the glass “half empty” but I chose to see the glass “half full.”
If you’re unhappy with your life, let pain from the past go, forgive those who have hurt or disappointed you and then, and most important, forgive yourself for wasting so much precious time during which you allowed anger to cloud your vision. When I finally realized that the only person I could change was me, I stopped trying to change others. I became free in ways that I had never dreamed possible. And life right about now is pretty darned good.