Why Do We Hold Grudges?

Why is it so important for us to “get even?”

In every movie today there’s a hero whose mission is to enact some sort of vengeance on their enemies. It’s clear to me that we as a society love payback and the sad truth is, payback can indeed be a bitch–especially for those plotting their revenge.


Unfortunately in today’s society it’s all too common to encounter people who have a list of sworn enemies. We are taught from a very early age that holding a grudge and seeking to prove people wrong can make us more successful. In the eyes of these so-called teachers, life is a zero sum game.

Obviously this idea is misguided and yet, anger and hatred still persist each and every day.

Here’s Why it Doesn’t Pay to Seek Payback

When we get upset with someone or something our body releases a cocktail of hormones designed to make us ready for fight or flight. These chemicals are released  through our endocrine system which responds directly to our brain.

The problem with this relationship is that our endocrine system doesn’t care whether our thoughts are based on fact, or based on fiction. So for example, even if in reality the person who gave us a dirty look wasn’t looking at us at all, our body responds as if they had. Thus resulting in our organs being flooded with fight or flight response chemicals.

When we get mad, our body dispatches dopamine and epinephrine (aka adrenaline) to the brain which subsequently fill our vital organs and muscles  with blood  in preparation for a physical altercation.  These hormones were specifically designed by evolution to prepare our bodies for confrontation and possibly a fight, so their effects had to be powerful and immediate.

As you can imagine, back when humans were running from saber tooth tigers this was an important survival mechanism. However, we humans today have out grown the need for a fight or flight response system in our society because technology has taken care of our most basic needs–i.e. shelter, access to food and safety.

The paradox here is that the chemicals that used to help keep us alive hundreds of years ago, might be killing us today. Overall it seems pride and vengeance seem to hurt us more than help us!

The Cost

When your body is full of these chemicals it can be very damaging over time. Overexposure to hormones such as cortisol cause long term effects that can be harmful and even life threatening.

blur cash close up dollars

Cortisol has been shown to increase inflammation in the body, leading to hypertension and high blood pressure. In addition, too much cortisol in the system can lead to the buildup of fat around important organs such as the heart and brain.

Those who suffer from chronic anger and stress are more likely to be obese AND other studies suggest those same people might have a higher probability of experiencing depression throughout their life.

So, now I ask you this:

What’s the point?

What’s the point of holding on to that anger?

Why waste valuable energy keeping up with your grudges?

Why would you want to spend time on them when you could be spending time working on yourself?

What if instead of worrying about what other people were doing, you worried about yourself?  Imagine if you spent your valuable energy reading books or learning a new skill rather than complaining about others and resenting them for what they did to you. What would your life look like then?


Ultimately, we shouldn’t forgive people for the sake of the person that is being forgiven. We should forgive people for the sake of our own mental and physical wellbeing. In other words, we forgive more for ourselves than for the person we forgive.

So, show yourself some love and forgive those who have wronged you in the past.

They, like you, are human and are susceptible to mistakes . So let them be.

sunset beach people sunrise

Let what happened in the past be as it was and live your life today and through all of your tomorrows with no resentment. Harbor no ill feelings towards another person because in reality, you are the one paying the price.

A heart free of grudges is a heart free to love and grow.

Thank you as always for reading our blog today. We appreciate you taking time out of your day to read content that is aimed to inspire and improve the world as we know it. And don’t forget, we would love to hear from you! Tell us your story of how you were able to let go of your anger. Let us know how it made you feel when you forgave someone for something you didn’t think you could forgive.

How did that improve your life?

Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain

Mayo Clinic—Effects of Cortisol

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.