If you are what you eat, then you can as well be what you feel. The feeling of joy makes butterflies in us, but if you are sad and blue because your buddy beat you to Diana’s heart, or because your friend wronged you, then nursing that grudge for long will only be the yeast in fermenting ill health.
Yes, nurse a grudge, hamper your health. There is no two way about it.
Does thinking about being overlooked for a job promotion makes your heart beat faster or your breathing become shallow? Does it make you want to push all the items off your desk and leave a bad taste in your mouth? If so, you are holding a grudge.
Phillip Gahaya, 27, worked for an auditing firm in Kigali for a number of years. He loved his job as it enabled him study while working.
“Much as my workmates made my year, it all came crumbling down on one evening when my boss called me and asked me to fraud the figures of the company she had asked me to audit. To be honest, I didn’t refuse because I am morally upright but rather thought it was a trick,” he said.
Gahaya stood ground with his ‘no’ thinking it was going to earn him a promotion yet it was digging him six feet deep.
“The next thing I knew, a meeting was called and I was pointed out as “the rotten egg” at workplace. Those are the exact words she used before she fired me,” he said as he looked to the ground.
As if that wasn’t enough, after two months, Gahaya applied for another job but as he was almost getting it, he was called off and later got to find out that his former boss wrote a bad note of him to the prospective employer.
“My family suffered for a long time and I had to change my children’s school. I will never forget that woman and I know the world is round so we shall meet again one day,” he concluded.
Forgiveness is something nearly all humans believe in but don’t always practice. In a recent Gallup poll in the US, 94 per cent of respondents said it was important to forgive, while only 48 per cent said they try to forgive others.
Much as Gahaya finds it hard to forgive someone he feels wronged him four years ago, Gloria Munezero, a Genocide survivor, attributes happiness to forgiveness.
“I lived in peace and harmony with my neighbours in Gitarama. Much as we were of different tribes, I loved their children like I loved mine; took care of them where needed but I was shocked that it was those same neighbours that came running after me with machetes,” she shook her head as she spoke.
The neighbours killed three of her family members and continuously chased her like she had done something so bad to them.
“It really shocked me how they chased after me with dogs like as if I had done the unthinkable. I survived and 15 years later, I met the lady of that family that chased me. I only wanted to do one thing: cut her hand and see if she had blood flowing through her body like mine because she and her family were so ruthless like beasts.”
After years of healing, Munezero managed to forgive and says it was the most joyful moment in her life.
“I forgave her and even asked her to come to my place and since we talked for long, she wouldn’t go back home and slept over at mine. I feel like a huge burden was dropped off my back and she also feels at peace now,” she said.
The negative emotions that come with holding a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends your body into a fight or flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival. When a threat is ancient history, holding on to that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time.
Pastor Paul Kwitonda, from Christ’s Assembly Church, says Christians should consider forgiveness as priority.
“Mathew 6:14-15 says, ‘For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’. Why then shouldn’t one forgive when they say they are Christians?” he asks.
“Have you seen a Christian who comes to church carrying a huge grudge? They look tired, they wouldn’t listen to the sermon because they are carried away by deep thought,” Kwitonda adds.
Dangers to life
Forgiving someone else isn’t about oneself alone, it’s about others as well as it depicts a true Christian and leads by example.
“Put yourself in that person’s shoes and most of all, I can’t give you a formula to avoid getting angry but before you do anything you will regret, ask yourself this, ‘What would Jesus do?’ then you will have an answer,” he says.
Sharon Teta, a psychologist from Partners in Health, says holding a grudge too long could shorten one’s lifespan.
“When you hold a grudge too long, you continue to let stress eat on you both physically and emotionally. It may also affect important relationships in your life because you keep feeling trapped in your own world with no way out,” she says.
Teta says a person held back by a grudge can easily take it out on innocent people and cause continuous poor interaction with others.
“Continuous thought and reflection on what hurt you can also cause resentment and anger, leading to depression. One would fail to function to their full potential,” she says.
The psychologist adds that stress could cause increased heart rate.
“This leads to high blood pressure, increased heart disease, digestive problems and a weakened immune system. Generally, it leads to mental and physical illnesses such as depression and sometimes even suicide,” Teta says.
The psychologist advises with a grudge to bear vent it out or confide in others.
“It helps important to talk to someone about how you feel when depressed. Some people also write, draw or sing to release the anger but facing the person that hurt you can be helpful and it’s important to do so with controlled emotions as your approach is important,” Teta says.
Daniel Kazungu, a physiology student, says there is a close relation between holding a grudge and heart diseases.
“It’s so shocking how many people suffering from cardiovascular diseases are very bitter, angry and depressed over past events. This greatly affects their health and enhances vulnerability to other diseases,” Kazungu says.
Kazungu also advises that forgiving someone is less stressful to the body than holding a grudge and also observed that people imagining incidents where they didn’t forgive someone perspire more and had faster heart rates, higher blood pressures, and more distressed facial gestures than forgivers do.