Friday, December 7, 2012

On taking oneself too seriously: Grudges in the twenty-first century

There was a time when many thought it noble to duel—to the death even, over petty grievances or slander uttered against another.  Feuds have been fought for millennia, in all cultures; grudges passed down from generation to generation, biases and prejudice metered out like bitter pills, fuel for the feud. 

But how could one benefit from the holding of a grudge?  I can’t see it being an empowering state; taking time, energy, and power away from the individual bent on keeping hostility close to his or her heart. (Imagine x-ray of shrinking Grinch’s heart.) Ultimately, one holding a grudge is saying, “I am in the right.  And I will prove it by never giving in.  Not never.  Not no-how”.

Why is it important to us as humans, to have those others—for whom we don’t give a fig anyway-- see us as being “in the right”?  If we know the truth, shouldn’t that be enough? Why does it matter what others think and why is it so difficult to own up to our own mistakes? Perhaps this defensive reaction could in fact be some sort of humanistic survival trait, like adrenaline, or smiling when embarrassed.  (Chimps do it when they’ve erred.  It makes them appear meek to other chimps who want to throttle them.)

A good friend reminded me that mistakes are inevitable, but if one learns from them, then the mistakes are well worth it. This perspective is definitely the higher road, (and this friend is definitely the higher-road-sort-of-chap) for what else, really, would one deign to choose? Faults, gaffs, muddles and blunders are the substance of life, a learning tool for the human-in-training, an evolutionary whetting stone of sorts, upon which we hone our humanistic self to our sharpest, finest instrument possible.

1 comment:

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