Even though the moment for New Year’s resolutions is past and, besides, no one really had any intention of making any such foolish resolutions, it is time to take a look at holding onto long-held grudges?
Exactly how long should we hold a grudge: forgive and forget, or suffer and seethe? Turn the other cheek, or cultivate decades of festering resentment?
While most folks are mature enough to let go of grudges going back to childhood, I am not. I still hold a dark place in my psyche for the kid who chased me when I was eight years old, a chase that ended with my hitting a wall and knocking out my front teeth. That was followed by my mother’s shrieking, “They were your permanent teeth” and a lifetime of expensive dental work.
Around age twelve, I was on my way to a public swimming pool when some thug walked by in a black leather jacket. Since the temperature was in the upper 80s I gawked at his indifference to the heat. In retaliation for my gawking, he punched me from behind while addressing me with an inaccurate ethnic slur. Fortunately, a friend warned me, and the blow to my head was a glancing one. If there’s any justice, this hood is either in jail or flesh-eating bacteria have consumed his fist.
Motor vehicle incidents are a prime source of grudges. First on my list are the drivers who, while talking on their hand-held phones, turn their giant SUVs in front of me while I am on a bike. I have introduced these folks to loud expressions of displeasure along with time-honored hand signals.
Periodically on highways, I have encountered aggressive drivers, wild video game heroes displeased with my going only 10 miles over the speed limit. In response, they cut me off barely missing my front bumper and then continue zigging and zagging down the road. At such moments, I should be obeying the signs, “Report Aggressive Driving,” but how can I do that when I am experiencing rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and borderline hysteria? Someday, somewhere, a policeman will nab these road warriors and suspend their licenses for a year or twelve.
Cars don’t have to be moving to inspire deep-seated resentment. Years ago (past the statute of limitations) I found a parking space in Manhattan after driving around for hours. Just as I was getting ready to back in, some guy drove his car head first into my space, locked his car and walked away. In this instance, there was no need to hold a grudge. I left a note for the driver on the side of his car—with a key.
I did forgive whoever stole my bike in college. After all, I didn’t lock it and, besides, I found it a few days later at the other end of campus.
As an enlightened defender of the First Amendment, I have never forgiven teachers at one of the Hopewell elementary schools for changing the words to John Lennon’s immortal song “Imagine” performed by children at a holiday concert for parents. The teachers bowdlerized Lennon’s lyrics so that, “Imagine there’s no heaven and no religion too” was transformed to, “Imagine there’s a heaven and religion too.” Not only was this sneaky alteration the opposite of Lennon’s protest against divisive institutions, but it was also a crime against music and poetry. Why couldn’t they have just stuck with something really safe and even more offensive like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”?
Bosses occupy their own special category of grudge-worthiness. Included is the Army captain who told me I looked “like a cow” for chewing gum. I weighed around 140. He weighed around 350. Then there was the lying, bullying, tantrum-throwing egomaniacal boss who blamed subordinates for everything. (Gosh, that sounds just like the current president.) But what goes around comes around perhaps in some spectacular karmic form involving poisonous spiders.
In contrast to holding a grudge over really bad behavior, it’s important to maintain a list of petty slights, so petty that I can’t ever let them go. Forty years ago, 10 lifeguards at a Rhode Island beach surrounded me in a threatening manner after I protested their assertion that I swam out too far. Staying with the beach setting, people who don’t clean up after their dogs should all be relegated to a circle in hell where they will be steeped in dog poo for eternity.
It goes without saying that anyone who ever made bad calls on the tennis court can never be forgiven. In fact, I can’t forgive myself for the bad calls I’ve made.
The ultimate question remains, however—should we ever forgive our parents? Perhaps when they are a hundred years old, but not before.
Robin Schore is a resident of Hopewell Borough.