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Negativity is a Toxic Beast: Embracing the Art of the Grudge Smudge

Nadine Briggs

Negativity is a Toxic Beast: Embracing the Art of the Grudge Smudge

by Nadine Briggs

Negativity is very toxic beast. Holding on to grudges can make you feel bitter and resentful. Over time, those feelings can begin to take up so much space that there is less room for happiness and contentment.

Making Room for Happiness and Contentment

The guideposts for living a happy and flourishing life include:

  • having experiences that elicit positive emotions,
  • engagement in activities that we enjoy, 
  • reciprocal and healthy relationships, 
  • meaningfulness by contributing to a greater good, 
  • and achieving goals and experiencing successes.

None of those guideposts include bitterness, resentment and grudges. Many of the kids and teens that we work with in our social resiliency groups spend a great deal of effort keeping track of all the wrongs that have been done to them. It’s like a scorecard in their minds. They value their grudges and revisit them often, keeping them fresh. Some of the issues that they are resentful of might even have been misperceived slights. I have had kids recall things as teens that happened to them in first grade. They will hang on to issues that had long since been apologized for but have remained unforgiven.

What Happens If We Can’t Let Go?

Holding in all that toxicity takes a toll on kids. It’s like a beast that is ready to rear up and seek its revenge. The toxic nature of those memories can begin to have an influence on new relationships. I have heard kids say “oh, that guy is just like Harold. I’ll bet they’re twins or something!” Keep in mind; issues with “Harold” literally happened a year ago. How much of a chance are they going to give someone who they have already decided they don’t like?

Getting Ridge of the Grudge

Here are some tips for letting go of a grudge:

  1. Write the grudge on an index card and crank it through a hand crank shredder. Once the grudge has become confetti, it is over. Once it’s been smudged then no more energy will be given to the grudge.
  2. If you’re in a snowy climate, you can make a snow ball for each grudge and fling it at a tree (not at parents or siblings please!) The satisfying thud against the tree trunk is the signal that the grudge has been smudged.
  3. If you’re in a warmer climate, you can write it on an egg (with parents’ permission) and heave it at a tree.
  4. Write it down on a small piece of paper and bury in the yard. Once gone, it’s time to forget it.
  5. Blow bubbles and imagine that each bubble is a grudge that is floating way and never to be seen again.

Kids who work so hard to get friends will cut them loose at the smallest infraction. If the scenario is flipped, however, those same people want forgiveness from others. They don’t see the hypocrisy in that, though, even when it’s pointed out to them. Friends are too hard to come by to lose over petty grievances. Friends are worth forgiving. Let’s start smudging out that toxic beast today.

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