Sunday 16 December 2012

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

A few weeks ago The Economist magazine carried a cartoon in which both a member of Hamas, the organisation that governs the Gaza Strip, and a soldier from the Israeli Defence Forces were seen in an attempt to have a “conversation”. In reality they were trying to bomb each other out of existence whilst nine speech bubbles formed a circle between them. The captions in the bubbles read: Which is why… I launched this retaliation attack… In response to your previous reprisal… That was my reply to your counter attack… Against your earlier retaliation… That avenged my previous assault… That launched this tit for tat… Against your retaliatory strike… In my response to my reciprocal attack… Which is why… and so on and so forth. Regardless of where your loyalties lie (and this post is not about the Palestine/Israel conflict), you will probably recognise the vicious circle described so humorously by The Economist. Because bearing a grudge is one of those human traits most of us have been assailed by at some point in our lives. And the assault has been so mercilessly effective that many of us (that’s not journalistic “us”. That’s real “me” included, folks) adopt this characteristic as part of our personality.

How many of you have ever been faced with a situation in which you thought you were right and yet you felt ignored? Especially when it involved an alleged mistake made by another person and you thought (got the, ah! ever so slight impression) that they were putting one over you? Tell me sincerely my dear fellow bloggers, did your blood begin to boil, did you feel your body temperature rise, did you fantasise about different scenarios in which you made your opponent(s) pay very dearly for their offense? No matter how many doubts were cast on your reaction to the situation – maybe, it wasn’t that person’s error, but yours – you felt wronged. You felt that you were not being treated fairly. Of course, when faced with this scenario the perfect solution would be to let it all out and have a clear-the-air polite, civilised discussion. But even that is not as easy as it seems at first appearance. Because if the grudge you’re bearing is against someone who you think has treated you unjustly, there’s no way that you will just let this one slide by. Oh, no, suddenly you’re bringing up issues that happened two years ago. Forget about letting sleeping dogs lie. You have woken up the canid and taken the muzzle and lead off. And guess what? Blame someone else if the dog ends up biting your opponent's leg off.

For many years I struggled (actually that should read “have struggled”) with this unwanted trait in my personality. What I came to understand, in talking to other people, was that I wasn’t alone when it came to holding a grudge against others. Many of us “enjoy” feeling resentful sometimes. I’m not implying that we derive pleasure from animosity, in the same way a spring day makes us jump with joy and excitement. No, what I mean is that bitterness occasionally serves as a protective shell when we think that we have been dealt a bad – and unfair! – hand. It’s the us vs. the world typical scenario.

The problem is that ill will begets ill will and suddenly we find ourselves locked in a vicious circle with speech bubbles floating about above us in a circular motion. And there’s a worse consequence: we’re no longer aware of how the argument came about; therefore we have deprived ourselves of the tools to end it.

If you’re in a couple you might recognise the scenario above. It starts with whose turn it was to do the washing up and it suddenly snowballs into the last person who forgot to take the dog out for a walk. Children can harbour resentment for days and even weeks and exact revenge when one least expects it. Teachers never forget a slight; unfortunately they are also in a position of power to get their own back.

However, one of the side-effects of the festive season we’ve recently entered is to remind us that beyond the row, the animus and the grievance, we also have the chance to close the chapter ourselves. The wound might take some time to heal, but being rancorous will not make it heal faster. Sometimes we wait for the other person to take the lead to apologise for the wrong we believe has been inflicted on us. And yet, we are equally capable of swallowing our pride and extending the olive branch to our opponent. The Beatles put it very succinctly and clear: “Life is very short, and there's no time/For fussing and fighting, my friend...” I know, I know what some of you are thinking, it’s hard. Same here. When I think back on situations and people who… Aaah, but I shan’t continue. For the last sixteen years or so I have realised that sometimes it’s better to follow Eric Idler’s advice and look on the bright side of life. Not always, mind, after all, what they say about Scorpios is true: we never forget and very rarely forgive. But ‘tis the season to give and to receive. Let’s have a moratorium on ill will, an armistice on bitterness, a truce on hard feelings. And spread love instead.

And this is all from me for the time being. As usual I will go into hibernation for a month until mid-January. My blog will not be idle, though; there’ll be music every week. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

© 2012

Next Post: “Festive Tuesday: Coffee and Music”, to be published on Tuesday 25th December at 10am (GMT)


  1. This was a good post to read during the holiday rush. The true meaning of Christmas is not materialistic. Forgiveness is a gift. That's an interesting observation about the desire to hold onto a grudge both on the personal and national level.

    I'm finding it hard to feel good about the world following the Newtown massacre of 20 elementary school children and the teachers who tried to save them. For Christmas I want legislation for gun control, and while we're at it, world peace. I can dream!

    BTW, thanks my husband is on the mend.

  2. This post has really made me think!
    While we're out rushing around buying Christmas presents, so many of us forget the Spiritual significance of this time of year.
    It really isn't about expensive gifts, but more the giving of love to our fellow man and the letting go of grudges and all forms of ill will towards others.
    Well, this is my Solstice dream, anyway!
    Greetings x

  3. Today Im not sure to comment but here I go.
    After the Connecticut massacre and all these kids I really dont feel good, for this I put a candle with prayers in my post-
    I hope finally USA and the politcs understand is not necessary have guns.But I really think that happens in Connecticut can happens in others sites that is the terrible.

    Anyway Christmas always is for me The Jesus birth but especially a sign of hope and faith (now more than never) and this is the sense of Advent, an special time to wait for Joy and hope especially if we have kids.
    I think is difficult forgiveness but always is the better.
    Hope these Christmas give all of you peace and love and especially to all these parents that will have a really hard Christmas.xo

  4. This post really made me think, much like "Ygraine" described. It really puts things in perspective.

  5. i like your heart in this....we have a stubborness when it comes to being right as well...i think it a character flaw in humans honestly....the need to be brings a lot of ill will and what does it what does hate and anger....carried to many extreme....i think it might be a good discipline to learn the letting go of things.....and this the season to start....smiles.

  6. Beautiful post, Cuban, and I'm grateful for having enjoyed your blot for another year. Have a wonderful vacation!

  7. it surely is good to be quick to make a step towards the other person, towards peace..sometimes easier said than done but in my experience it's better to not wait on the other but get active myself... good wisdom in this sir

  8. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    I wrote this post several days ago as I know I will be busy over the next few days and won't be as often in front of my computer as I usually am. Then Friday arrived and I just couldn't believe my eyes. Another tragedy? And this time it was children? Primary school children? I work at a primary school and I thought back to Friday when I stood at the school gates seeing both parents and students off and wishing them all a nice weekend. And the contrast that night. I can't even imagine what the families of those affected by the tragedy must feel right now. It would be disrespectful on my part to try to imagine such scenario.

    That's why I would like to go further than Sarah Laurence. If I lived in the US I wouldn't just want legislation for gun control, I would like an outright ban. My language might emotional and upset some, but these are my thoughts. We don't need guns to defend ourselves. Maybe what we need is a little bit more of love to arm ourselves with.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  9. Great post, Cubano! We all hold grudges; but the real lesson of Christianity is forgiveness, turning the other cheek. Not the easiest of habits! Not even fair!
    Yet, progress of any sort comes only if we can see the other side, and forgive those whose judgement was invalid, who wronged us for eternity with malice or not.

    My son died after an assault. We pressed no charges. In the moment of death, there is a chance to elevate the moment, that quick moment when everything changes.
    What we could do was forgive the assailant, for his sake, for his family's sake.
    For every moment of forgiveness, there are also moments of anger, deep resentment for the loss we suffered, for the life lost.

    Thank God, though, that we had a choice, to stop the cycle of violence and recrimination.

  10. Yeah some great food for thought and yeah I am stubborn too when I no I am right, or when someone tries to shift the blame to me, then I'll tell them where to stick it with glee haha

  11. Best cartoon of the year. Many in the US also seem determined to never compromise or shake hands and work together. It's a sad state of affairs; I can only hope that the latest horror will accomplish something and bring my nation together to work toward ways to prevent violence.

  12. Loud smiles at the clip from the Life of Brian - and recognition that it is something I need to do myself. Concentrating on my wrongs (real or imagined) does nothing good for me - or for those around me.
    And negativity is catching.
    A lovely, meaningful post. Thank you.

  13. Here, here! Well said! I couldn't agree more...and what we don't realize is how much energy it takes out of us to hold a grudge.

    Love is all you need.

    : )

  14. What came to mind as I read this excellent post was a phrase I have often heard (and used) when trying to smooth over playground fights. It's the one about getting your retaliation in first. Some things never change!

  15. Sometimes we feel we are always right, sometimes we feel we are victimised and that is worse and prolongs the resentment that turn into hate and wanting revenge. I agree with you on the outright ban. In Malaysia we can't even own the bullets.

  16. Anger, strife, grudges poison the mind, spirit and body and spread to inflict harm on those nearby. I pray we can all learn to let go and move on. To forgive and forget. If we realized the great detrimental effects of such negative feelings, maybe we would be more willing to abandon them. Thanks for an awesome post! Merry Christmas and Happy New Years too!

  17. Very well done! Excellent realistic message. Moratorium on ill will from here on out. Keep the canid closed. :)Thanks.

  18. There comes a time when if we want peace, whether between nations, or couples, then we have to put grudges away and look for a solution. I agree with you that love is the best healer and way to find that solution. Unfortunately, most people are too attached to their grudges and don't want to let them go.


  19. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    As it happens, this week I almost reacted in the way I described at the beginning of this post. I felt offended and I wanted revenge. I shared a pic on one of my Facebook pages. The image highlighted the importance of libraries. One of my acquaintances and ex-classmates from my uni cracked a humourless joke about it, but, in his rush to get his ignorant point across, made a mistake. When I pointed out his solecism, jovially, of course, he got all upset. I, then, replied to his rather impertinent correspondence in a polite and gentlemanly manner, but he went into one and... Well, to cut the story short, I felt like leaving him an Oscar-Wilde-style putdown, but thought better of it and did what I recommended in my post: just let it go. He's the ignorant, not you. :-)

    So, it can be done.

    Greetings from London.

  20. A fine post. It's natural for most of us to react as you described. We have a need to feel justified even to the detriment of harmony. We need to learn to let go so that we can embrace what's important. And it never hurts to be reminded of that, so thanks for this post. And thanks for your visit to my blog.

    And I'm amused by your choice of music after stating that your blog will not be "idle." :)

  21. a powerful post!

    well said. i second li's comment (last lines).
    thanks so much for this thought provoking post.

    wishing you and yours the best for this holiday season.

    p.s. thanks so much for your wonderful comments on my blog and for your continued support.
    much appreciated!!:)

  22. i strongly believe that we need to learn to let go...revenge only poisons the mind..

  23. Gracias por pasar por mi blog, mis deseos de Felicidad en estas Fiestas Navideñas.

  24. Gracias por tu comentario en mi blog.
    Felices fiestas y un cordial saludo.

  25. Many thanks for your kind comments. Muchas gracias por sus comentarios.

    Greetings from London. Saludos desde Londres.

  26. Very good thoughts here. I do agree that sometimes people carry grudges because they carry grudges when they would be better off losing them and beginning a new, giving one another a new chance. The holiday season is really a good time to shed one's old grudges. Thank you for the interesting post, the reminder!

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