Releasing grudges is a good death

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Mary Carol is at a local event. Across the room, she sees someone she used to work with and immediately remembers how he treated her. His memories are definitely to positive. She remembers that he was part of a work group. She was one of the facilitators of the group and facilitated the meetings. As she looked at him, Mary Carol remembered that he would refuse to follow the agenda the whole group had agreed to. And when she tried to get the meetings going again, he ignored her and monopolized the conversation. When she brought ideas, he spoke above her and neglected her. When she chose to stop hosting the group, a large part of her decision stemmed from her feeling of disrespect by this man.

With those grudges in mind, Mary Carol considers pretending she hasn't seen him. But the polite thing to do is acknowledge it, and she does. To her surprise, the man doesn't even remember her. She reminds him of how they had met in the past, and he doesn't even remember her as part of the group. He gives no indication that he remembers her or any of their interactions. However, he is polite and seems to be interested in his current projects.

At the end of the event, Mary Carol left amused. It didn't matter if he pretended not to know who she was or that he really didn't remember her. What was significant was that she had felt resentment towards this person. She hadn't thought of him for a few years, but when she saw him, her anger and resentment came to the surface. And yet, for him, nothing. And it helped Mary Carol realize the value of letting go of grudges. Thinking badly about this person only held them back.

Mary Carol takes a moment to observe her experiences and to let go of any lingering resentment or anger toward her former colleague. She takes a deep breath and allows herself to move on. She knows that this moment is an opportunity for her to free herself from all unnecessary and harmful resentment.

Later, Mary Carol would reflect on this encounter. With deep appreciation, she recalls some of the Buddhist teachings on suffering, attachment and impermanence. Although she was unaware of the difficult feelings she harbored, she is grateful for the opportunity to strengthen her practice. Specifically, once she took a deep breath and acknowledged her feelings, she appreciated the opportunity that had just been presented to her.

At this point, you may be wondering about the relevance of this story in a chronicle about death. When the sentient beings we care about die, we expect to experience grief. We know death is inevitable, yet there is this gap between intellectual knowledge and emotional acceptance. And attachment and aversion help create this gap. We want to avoid the painful feelings associated with loss; we want the good times with our loved ones to last forever. In the past, when I talked about the death of sentient beings, I called it Death with a capital “D”.

I started making this distinction when I started exploring impermanence and how we can use everyday impermanence to prepare for what is to come. I used the term death with a lowercase “d” to describe these less dramatic life experiences.

Most of the time I discussed impermanence as something that happens to us. It's part of the table. Now I would like us to think about impermanence and death which are beneficial to our well-being. This is the kind of death Mary Carol gave to the anger and resentment she felt for her former colleague. It's a good death – not to be confused with a sentient being having a good death, allowing it to have a better (or no) rebirth.

Here, a good death refers to the benefits of releasing feelings that are holding you back. I deliberately do not use the term burial these feelings. Where I'm from, that would involve bottling those feelings deep within your subconscious, with the hope that you'll never face them again or feel discomfort because of them.

You know that the feelings you are trying to bury will eventually come to the surface. If you are lucky they will come in a safe setting, like when you are on your meditation cushion. Or not. Maybe they'll come back when you look across the room and see that former colleague.

It's clear that Mary Carol had unresolved feelings for her former colleague. And that she was unable to overcome her grudges during their time together in the task force. Managing those feelings at that time would have been ideal. With time passing and the development of her practice, she does not miss the next opportunity. Anger and resentment arose, and she actively worked with these feelings to deal with permanent impermanence. This is an example of a deliberate and proactive search for impermanence.

What arises, ceases. Sometimes you have to nudge the cessation.

If you have grudges, let them go and give those feelings a good death.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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