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