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Description: A lot of the time, when you consider the concepts being discussed, examined and studied in psychological research I suspect that you saying to yourself things like “OK that makes sense” or “I can see how they are looking at that” or perhaps “I might define that a little bit differently.” What I am suggesting is that I bet that a lot of what psychologists talk about, when they are talking about concepts that you are familiar with thorough your lived experience, does not have you disagreeing with how they are defining these concepts and how they are relating them to everyday life. But I also bet that this is not always the case. There are social psychologists who study social concepts such a resentment, grudges, forgiveness and revenge. Can you think of a situation where you and a friend were talking about a situation (or a relationship) that one of you had experienced that had gone wrong and one of you (not the one with the lost relationship) suggests that the other should forgive the partner (though perhaps not to the extent of getting back together with them). How did that go? Does a lack of forgiveness automatically mean that the remaining option will involve revenge of some sort? What sorts of factors would turn things one way or the other? When I read about research in this area, I sometimes find that I am not sure I agree with the researchers in terms of how they are defining their terms or in how they are sketching out optimal social behaviour in such situations. Maybe it is just me. But, as a start to see where you sit have a read through the article linked below and think about whether you agree with the line the author is drawing out distinguishing holding a grudge from feeling resentment.

Source: Why Holding a Grudge Is So Satisfying, Alex McElroy, The New York Times Magazine.

Date: January 18, 2022

Image by nastya_gepp from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/18/magazine/grudge-recommendation.html

So, how did the distinction between grudge and resentment land with you? I suggested you start with that because researchers who examine forgiveness and revenge tend to see grudges and resentments and very similar. I DO like the article authors argument that grudges are focused and “smaller” than resentments. The author also implies that while resentments are carried like examples of the sorts of life baggage, we carry whereas grudges are more action based and may be things we will act upon. Perhaps it would have worked to have the article characterized as advice, “Be healthier and less burdened, bear grudges not resettlement.” What do you think? If you want to dig in a bit deeper to this research domain have a look at a few of the article linked below in the References/Further Reading section. It is interesting stuff and sometimes entertaining as you try to decide what definitions you agree with and when ones you do not.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. If you had to how would you distinguish a grudge from resentment?
  2. Do you agree with the linked article author’s distinction between grudges and resentment and why or why not? If you would sort them out differently, how would you do so?
  3. With out without consulting the additional linked article below how would you theoretically sort of grudges, resentments, revenge, anger, and, perhaps, forgiveness? Is forgiveness just another concept in the collection of concepts or is it a sort of developmentally or ethically or spiritually advance higher ground and if so how?

References (Read Further):

Kutz, C. (2015). Forgiveness, forgetting, and resentment. Calif. L. Rev., 103, 1647. Link (yes this is a law review article so this stuff really matters, right?)

Murphy, J. G. (2007). Forgiveness, self-respect, and the value of resentment. In Handbook of forgiveness (pp. 57-64). Routledge. Link

Cherry, M. (2019). The interplay between resentment, motivation, and performance. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 46(2), 147-161. Link

Ahmed, E., & Braithwaite, V. (2006). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and shame: Three key variables in reducing school bullying. Journal of social issues, 62(2), 347-370. Link

Mullet, E., Neto, F., & Riviere, S. (2005). Personality and its effects on resentment, revenge, forgiveness, and self-forgiveness. Handbook of forgiveness, 159-181. Link

Nelkin, D. (2013). Freedom and forgiveness. Free will and moral responsibility, 165-188. Link

Toussaint, L., & Webb, J. R. (2005). Theoretical and empirical connections between forgiveness, mental health, and well-being. Handbook of forgiveness, 349-362. Link

Rye, M. S., Folck, C. D., Heim, T. A., Olszewski, B. T., & Traina, E. (2004). Forgiveness of an ex-spouse: How does it relate to mental health following a divorce?. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 41(3-4), 31-51. Link

Worthington Jr, E. L. (2007). More questions about forgiveness: Research agenda for 2005–2015. In Handbook of forgiveness (pp. 581-598). Routledge. Link