Holding onto a grudge has torn family, friends and incredibly gifted people apart since the beginning of time.
It can often be rooted in jealousy, as in the case of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament, and in the case of rivals competing against each other, as we have seen in so many artists, athletes, politicians, celebrities and others.
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were enemies because they had so many things in common. Both were trained in Florence, both were exceptionally gifted, and both were asked to do similar works of art — at times even in the same location.
Competition can often bring out the worst in people: Michelangelo insulted Leonardo in the street, laughing at the older rival for never finishing his statue of a horse in Milan.
Leonardo had a history of personal attacks and insults as well. It must have been hard for their admirers to witness such talented professionals lower themselves to such petty and mean spirited battles. The most tragic artistic falling out was probably between Van Gogh and Gauguin.
Van Gogh hoped to create an art colony in the south of France and was able to convince his idol, Gauguin, to join him. But their friendship deteriorated, Van Gogh cut off his own ear — and Gauguin fled, leaving Van Gogh to be institutionalized.
How much beautiful and incredible masterpieces could these artists have produced if they had left their grudges behind, and perhaps worked together or shared best practices?
The most common and dangerous type of grudge may happen within marriage — and children are often the most innocent victims. Some things can really hurt and are not easily forgiven or forgotten: saying an inconsiderate word in a moment of anger or upset, making decisions without consultation, not honoring one’s word — the list goes on.
Marriage should be about beginning anew and believing the best about one’s spouse in the name of faith and loving God. I asked two different couples who had been married for over 50 years the secret of their long and happy marriages. Both couples responded the key was learning how to let go of past grudges — and never to bring those things up in the context of heated discussions.
Parents, please think about your kids — try to see the virtue and positive aspects of your spouse before you dig in too deeply.
I asked two different couples who had been married for over 50 years the secret of their long and happy marriages. Both couples responded the key was learning how to let go of past grudges — and never to bring those things up in the context of heated discussions.
Jesus has given all of us an example to follow.
His words from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing,” give us a clear pathway to letting to of grudges: to assume that most people are not intentionally trying to hurt us and that there is often some other reason, perhaps some personal issues, that are behind their actions.
Imagine if Jesus had not forgiven St. Peter after he had denied knowing him three times? Imagine if He had blasted all of the Apostles with the exception of St. John, for having abandoned Him in His moment of greatest need at the cross?
He let these past hurts go, appeared to the disciples after His resurrection — and affirmed them and renewed His deep trust in them to establish the church.
Jesus has providentially placed many souls in your path, some of whom will be a little more challenging. Are you willing to allow His love to work through you?
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.