Saturday, August 8, 2009

Holding a Grudge

γνῶθι σαυτόν, "gnothi sauton", &quot...Image via Wikipedia
I think the worst kind of grudges are the ones we hold because someone failed to be the person we expected. But it's not only that they aren't who we expected them to be, it's how they dared to be anything but. We do this especially with parents. We've known them all our lives or so we think, and we arrive at adulthood only to discover they've been someone else all along.

How can this happen? Have we been deceived, have they led us on a merry chase for twenty or thirty years only to turn round and cry with wicked grins, "Surprise"? I don't think so, or at least not intentionally. As we grow up, our relationships with parents change and we become, or at least we ought to be, more capable of experiencing a person in their fullness.

When my father passed away, one of the most intriguing things that happened to me was visiting with his friends. Their relationships with him were far different from mine, and with their help I began to realize there was a great deal about him to which I had never been privy. I came away from these encounters wondering just who it was I'd grown up with. There was so much I'd never known and to which I'd paid so little attention.

Despite the common conception, age does not necessarily correlate with self-knowledge. Coming to know ourselves, as advised by the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece (Gnothi seauton: know yourself intimately), doesn't always get the attention it deserves. Ironically, neither does knowledge of others. We structure our lives based on assumptions that allow us to feel secure. When reality intrudes, we can feel disrupted and resentful. Grudges ensue.

The freedom we value for ourselves we need to grant to others. I've written several times about the mystery that presents itself in the face of another, lover and stranger alike. Grudges only serve to isolate us. They enshroud with the mask of angry familiarity and prevent us from knowing as truly as we wish to be known. Intended to protect against pain, they only create more, making all of us losers in the end.

(Image from Wikipedia)

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