Grudges, Grouches and Grumbles

The three ‘g’s — grudges, grouches and grumbles — are best avoided if we want a long and happy life. Constantly harping on old hurts or finding the proverbial fly in the ointment is a sure way of distancing other people and making oneself miserable at the same time. St Benedict’s frequent exhortation to avoid grumbling was not a matter of quietistic ‘put up and shut up’ (which could lead to the perpetration of the most hideous wrongs) but recognition of a psychological and spiritual truth. Memory and will are closely linked. A sense of grievance often has the unhappy effect of binding us in the past, in a situation we cannot change (because it is past) but which determines our present and future. It is a kind of moral blight, stunting growth.

Yesterday many people in Britain remembered the events of World War I in moving ceremonies redolent of Holy Week Tenebrae services. There was regret, penitence even; gratitude and pride; predominantly, perhaps, a poignant sense of waste — so many lives lost, and ultimately, for what? I very much doubt whether anyone used the language I occasionally heard from the lips of my grandparents’ generation about ‘the filthy Bosch’ or ‘the Hun’. Yesterday’s insults, like yesterday’s enmities, lay silent in death.

This morning, however, we must face the reality of today’s hatreds and fears. What will become of the Christians forced to flee from the Middle East, most recently from Mosul? Will the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel lead to anything like peace? Nearer home, how will the preparations for the Scottish referendum proceed? It is easy to say, let go of your grudges, forget the ancestral myths, don’t be chained by your history, real or imagined. Easy to say, but not easy to do. I take heart, however, from this fact: we may not forget the past, but we can allow it to be redeemed. What works at the individual level can work — if we are willing — at the level of peoples and nation states. If yesterday’s commemorations taught us anything, they taught us the price to be paid for human folly and malice. A grudge may seem a very little thing, but it can set the whole world on fire.

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7 thoughts on “Grudges, Grouches and Grumbles”

  1. I don’t wish to grumble 🙂
    What and where does the Referendum fit in to an otherwise excellent piece?
    I am half and half. Proud of my Yorkshire heritage but born and raised in Scotland. Mother English and Father Scottish.

    I will vote for independence. Like most Scots this has nothing to do with the past but everything to do with the future and a desire to build a more just society. Our values, laws, education, holidays, are quite different from our neighbours to the south and increasingly that is the case.

    I love England. I love being half English.

    • I had hoped it was obvious why I used the Referendum as a contemporary illustration of a general point. Scottish independence is polarising views, and although your personal experience may be the happy one of positive thinking about the future, it is not true of everyone — some very harsh and extreme views have been heard down here which have much more to do with the past than with the future. (By the way, our — completely — Scottish member takes an entirely different view of independence from you!)

      • Hm I am so sorry if you heard nasty polarizing views – these are not things I have seen here or heard. My completely Scottish wife is quiet nun on this one

  2. You’re so right to bring up the subject of holding on to grudges – anyone brought up by someone holding on to grudges instead of looking into them and sorting them out knows how potentially excellent parents can instead be a frightening, unpredictable and unbalanced presence in their lives.

  3. Excellent reflection on the very troublesome matter of pointless violence and destruction of war. We long for and call for peace and yet it ever eludes us. Our prayers seem without answer. Yet, I grasp the thread of hope that peace is possible. It begins in our own heart. Let us pray for God’s grace to find forgiveness and peace in our selves and our brothers and sisters, all.

  4. Grudges, grouches, and grumbles, in my humble opinion, can be absolutely devastating in the workplace and especially in family life. How often do you see small huddles of people complaining together about a particular issue or person? St Benedict calls this ‘murmuring’. Once I got older and realised that there was a very difficult atmosphere in one office I was working in, I went in early one morning and prayed over every chair. Shortly afterwards the issue was resolved – one person left and the entire atmosphere changed. One of St Benedict’s rules refers to making peace before sundown, and in personal relationships I’ve found it invaluable, because it brings its own peace.

  5. It’s interesting that our humanity is perhaps the cause of us holding onto grudges. And it’s the Grace of God that allows us to be reconciled and to let go of them.

    Like one of the earlier commentators here, I share English and Scottish ancestry, but identify as English because this is where I was born, raised and have lived the majority of my life. I don’t have any hang ups about Scots independence, because if that’s what they want, so be it. I just dislike the combative way that Mr Darling and Mr Salmond debated yesterday, with more to come. It smacked of schoolboy ‘yah boo’ politics and not a reasoned debate.

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