Grudges Against My Relatives by Yentl Eisenberg

Grudges Against My Relatives by Yentl Eisenberg

As I get older, I realize that I am not much good at being a great relative.

You know, one of those people who everyone uses as a role model; someone who gets invited to every simcha, someone who gets regular visits from relatives just because they are nice to be with.

As a child, I heard family lore about this cousin and that aunt and how we no longer speak with them because of some unmentionable faux pas done to hurt us.

I used to think that it was silly to carry these grudges and that I would never do that when I was a grown up. I thought I was good at family relationships. I thought I knew how to be nice and pleasant company.

Then I turned around and realized that by somewhere in my forties, I had whittled my familial contacts down to two. Somehow, without intending to, I had developed grudges. Of course, they are all valid. After all, I am the paragon of public relations, I am Miss Manners. I am Dear Abby…..

I am wrong.

It hurts to bear a grudge. It is a weight that sags my shoulders and bends my neck. It adds pounds to my already overloaded bones. It wakes me up in the middle of the night, heart racing, nightmares fading back into the darkness. I lie awake, facing my foes and replaying our nasty encounters, imagining better comebacks and headier revenge. Then I remember reading that the Rambam said that people who bear grudges usually suffer from lots of physical ailments and pain.

I have had enough.

I have decided to end my grudges. This is easier said than done.

First, for the people I most wanted to be involved with, I took some initiative and sent them an email, made a phone call, or sent Shana Tova cards. Second, I overcame my reluctance to travel and attended a distant family simcha.

I got a wide variety of responses to my efforts, ranging from renewed relations to a poison pen letter full of invective. I thought I was ready for the reactions, but I was just as surprised at the pleasure of the happy responses as I was at the nasty ones.

Engaging with others takes effort. It means that I have to move out of my comfort zone. It means that I may get hurt or rejected. Or it means that I may end up with one more name engraved on my heart. I am ready to put down my burdensome grudges and re-engage with the people in my life.

Are you?

Image courtesy of user Luke Addison


  1. About a year ago I got into a fight with a friend and spent months holding a grudge against her. I saw how negatively this grudge was affecting my life and how much it bothered and hurt me, so I made up with her…and then we never spoke again.

    It can be really difficult to actually address your anger and disappointment with someone else – especially if you get a negative response for all your efforts. Either way, I think that it is worthwhile because if nothing else, it clears your conscience and you know that you tried at least.

  2. This will sound weird and I havent done it in a while but I use to hold big fat grudges inside and keep playing like nothing happened…but I would write a memo on my phone of how I was treated or spoken to as a reminder not to have high expectations of certain people in my life and to stop getting worked up before seeing them and, as bad as it sounds, also to be less giving in a case I had with someone who was constantly “borowing” but never ever payed anything back or even mentioned it…so this was helpful to me since I was placing in my conscienceness where not to put any effort, and instead of grudges I accepted them as people who are in my circle of life as they are but not on my account and if I chose to make a hesed by giving than it should be true hesed which means not thinking about returns…

    • sara, you are right, i think that true hesed MEANS doing for others without thinking about returns. holding grudges is another form of keeping an account of someone else’s behavior. every night we say Shema Al HaMita, which includes a paragraph about making a cheshbon (an accounting) of our deeds for the day. there is no such paragraph which instructs us to make a cheshbon about other people’s deeds…

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