CHAPTER 5 – Grievances


One of the most common blind spots in intelligent people is allowing the memories of failure and loss to overwhelm their strengths and abilities. This trait is often seen in goal-oriented people who expect to have their skills and efforts rewarded. Confronting disappointment strikes them as more challenging than the average person. It is not just a matter of missed opportunities for them. Instead, they often turn their resentment to specific situations or people who they believe betrayed them and caused their misfortune. Questions about their abilities and mindset are rarely considered. 

Many individuals who cling to these resentments and deep frustration fail to recognize how this habit can profoundly harm our well-being. Eventually, this anger and sense of betrayal can solidify into grievances that tightly organize our outrage around key memories of enemies and hardships. Continually brooding on this distress will strengthen these hostile judgments until it tears a hole in our confidence and self-esteem. This concentration on personal distress eventually will internalize it by moving it from an external event to being a significant part of our wounded identity. This is how we unwittingly magnify the damage to themselves.

The signs that we have significant grievances  

People who hoard their grievances about past disloyalty and other injuries often act as if their significant losses are a perverse treasure that must be preserved. They would, of course, find this statement absurd, but when others suggest they are making too much of their suffering, they often strongly protest that their injuries were massive and life changing. They will claim the deep injuries they have suffered cannot be tossed away with a wave of forced understanding and false acceptance. 

The impact of the events that led to the grievances have altered how they view themselves and what happens to them. Their locus of power is now more outside themselves than before. Consequently, their thoughts often drift back to lingering on how outer events have permanently damaged their ability to assert themselves and be happy. 

The distinguishing characteristics of the grievance-oriented person are:

  • They assume that bad experiences are far more powerful and significant than favorable events. There is usually little interest in exploring why they have this imbalance.
  • Poor results or difficulty is routinely expected for no reason.
  • Old insults and injuries tend to be hoarded as if they need them to justify the continually aggrieved status of the innocent victim.
  • There is far greater knowledge about what is wrong with people and situations than what is right. This paradox arouses little curiosity in them.
  • Insight into the profound degree of their negativity is usually absent. They assume they are merely being realistic and rational about how life is complicated and unfair. The fact that they are lacking in self-control, patience, tolerance, or flexibility is rarely considered.
  • Making the original offenders return with sincere apologies and compensation is often presumed to be the only realistic solution to ending their grievances.  
  • Grievance holders are experts in being judgmental and playing the blame game. They can shift responsibility for problems onto others at lightning speed.
  • There are strong tendencies to become dependent and needy for emotional support and comfort. They usually deny this fact. 
  • Reliving memories of old wounds and losses too often creates a hard core of bitterness. There is little recognition that this fixation slowly adds extra resentment to their already negative memories. 

Signs of that grievances can affect our spiritual life 

Suppose our mindset is chronically oriented to blaming our problems on repugnant people and destructive situations. In that case, we will have significant difficulties in our relationship with higher human and spiritual potentials. Our unrecognized tendency to avoid accepting even partial responsibility for many of our failures and disasters will undermine our ability to cooperate with the higher power of the Deity.

Here are the signs that our habit of focusing too much on our grievances is harming our spiritual life.

  • We believe that either God doesn’t care about us or that God and divine law are severely limiting us and causing significant distress. A truly loving God would have never permitted bad things to happen to us and would have already punished those who caused us pain.
  • There is only a tepid belief in redemption or the value of redemptive activities. Harmful events cause permanent pain and suffering. Genuine relief is usually impossible.
  • Every day we remember or relive painful past events. We combine this with a strong mindfulness of our inability to overcome them. There is a total failure to recognize that these activities are the perverse equivalent of worshipping our misery. We only substitute despair for traditional devotion as a way to remember them.
  • Spiritual goals are often highly idealistic and considered only as remote possibilities. Achievable spiritual lifestyle changes tend to be neglected in favor of trying to be “one with the all” or other otherworldly goals that have little impact on our earthly existence.

How those who have this blind spot can affect society

Large groups of people who tend to rely on blaming others as their preferred way to cope with many of their troubles will also have a powerful impact on society. When large segments of the population use the same faulty methods for coping with conflicts and injustice, specific problems will occur in society.

  • Progress in resolving problems will be slowed or halted as attention is diverted from any success achieved into agonizing over the past and more blaming of those who allegedly caused this mess.
  • There is nonstop complaining as the designated troublemakers are permanently vilified. We are constantly reminded of old and new injustices, and more misery is squeezed from these events.
  • Any progress made in resolving these issues is rarely whispered for fear it will offend the victims of injustice.
  • Constructive discussion about many social issues seldom occurs because judgments and opinions are frozen in harsh accusations and finger-pointing. The extremists on each side of any issue crowd out any who are reasonable and capable of resolving these problems.
  • Opportunists arise who appeal to the aggrieved to act as their rescuer from past and current grievances. They feed on the accumulated distress to inflame these issues and make a good living off the misery of others.

What are the core issues behind being stuck in grievances?

Grievance-oriented people become specialists in using the blame mode to respond to difficulties and challenges. Our anger is weaponized in this manner to repel adversity, prevent further harm to us, and punish our enemies. Using our capacity to blame others to protect ourselves from further injury creates a powerful incentive to preserve our anger instead of resolving it. 

Grievances can grow to become the psychological equivalent of a black hole that continues to suck the peace and joy out of us. The reward for blaming others for all our distress leads to the exhilaration of righteous indignation and the benefits of innocent victimhood. Unfortunately, the net result of this activity is permanent hostility in us and the misery this brings. Keeping our grievances causes many long-term problems that outweigh the brief benefits they seem to bring. 

The continuous effort to blame others and situations for all our problems disables our ability to heal old conflicts. This occurs because we view them as entirely due to the misbehavior of others. As long as we can sustain the blame, we never have to say we are sorry. Neither do we need to consider the role we played in contributing to our problems by our narrow thinking, unrealistic expectations, and stubbornness.

This mistaken belief will abort all attempts to heal these old issues. 

What grievance-oriented people can do to relieve their distress 

Those who sincerely want to reform their habits of nursing grievances need to study the horrible consequences of behaving in this manner. Grievances can become the equivalent of an emotional cancer that will destroy our humanity. Large chunks of our life can be consumed with poisonous hatred and blame that spreads to fill in the empty spaces in ourselves. Making our emotional wounds the centerpiece of our life will impair our healthy relationships and ability to be productive. This is how many transform the experience of disappointment into the status of perpetually aggrieved victims.

There is an obvious absurdity in the perspective of the grievance-centered person. Viewing ourselves as wounded and the habit of nurturing our grievances keeps us bonded to the last thing we want—our traumatic past. This is what we earnestly wish to escape. The belief that external agents have caused the bulk of our suffering is comforting, but it also nullifies whatever we might do to help ourselves correct or repair this damage to ourselves. 

Before taking back control of our life, we must radically change how we view our experiences. First, we must take back the power of self-determination by abandoning the conviction that other people and forces have caused the bulk of our misery. This leaves us as the helpless puppet of our adversaries. We must stop volunteering our submission to this arrangement by declaring we will determine our destiny from now on.

Second, we must give up the assumption that any injury done to us by others also requires them to fix all the damage. Using blame to dump responsibility on others takes away our accountability to repair our injuries and heal our self-esteem, regardless of who or what caused our suffering. It is absurd to sulk in silence when we could be working to rebuild our confidence and productivity. Once we decide to “own” our problems, we can effectively heal them.  

A direct assault on reducing our grievances will likely arouse their bodyguards to attack us with all the fury we invested in our long period of resentment. It is better to work first on side issues of our grievances before approaching the core situation. 

For this reason, it may be helpful to try using a different mindset and perspective to view all our experiences. This technique requires us to briefly experiment with a new identity to view our daily activities in a fresh manner. This change requires us to construct an alter-ego in which we imagine we are different people with many desirable strengths and qualities we might lack. We could pick an outstanding person known from real life, movies, or TV who is strong, resourceful, and charismatic. We imagine we can “borrow” these resources to think and act as they do as we engage in the details of our life. Most of all, we can review painful memories from the perspective of this formidable person.

Once we squeeze outside the confining shell of our old, fixed judgments of resentment and victimhood, we can experience a more constructive view of life than we have had. This does not mean creating a fantasy, but instead, we are trying to reproduce what a powerful, mature person would do about the setbacks we have experienced. Indeed, a mature person would view our past as memories we must allow to pass from us as something real but dead. The only authentic power of our past is in what we give to it by our belief that it is the prime controlling authority of our life.

In contrast, the mature person would concentrate entirely on trying to thrive in the present so we can build a better future. There is no need to persist with constant pessimism or feeling helpless. This shift of attitude can be valid because we can change how we embrace our potential for confidence, strengths, and the ability to create a new and healthier approach to life. This is the first significant change we must establish because it is the gateway to all other significant improvements. 

The alter-ego experience can show us how healthy people deal with difficulties without coming to a complete stop, leaving us empty and victimized. The strong person would be plotting their comeback before the blood dried on the original disaster. We need to sense this courage and optimism once more to get us started on the inner changes we need for healing. The idea is to use the seed of our imagination to summon our inner strengths (actual or potential) that we have neglected. At worst, it can give us an edge of hope that we did not have before. 

The chronic grievance-oriented person can also promote their healing by frequently remembering their positive memories. They can do this by recalling successful experiences in which their talents and efforts were productive and led to genuine progress. If we neglect to give as much attention to our successes as our failures, we will quickly add to our suffering and imbalances. We must establish a more favorable perspective to the score we keep on ourselves. 

In addition, we can make a rule to catch ourselves doing too much mental time-tripping into our painful past. Each return to failure and disappointment energizes our suffering and adds to our despair. We need to remind ourselves that reliving an experience will not make it better. If it was terrible the first time, the second, third, or umpteenth time will probably be just as bad. We must stop this horrible exercise.  Beware! This idea may contradict what some experts encourage. Use your common sense to decide what is right. 

We can also use our imagination to do a do-over of our traumatic experiences. In this do-over, we summon our creativity, charm, confidence, and goodwill to create a better ending in which we end up with an outcome that is comfortable and reasonable. The idea is to erase some grief and disappointment in this manner. 

Finally, make it a rule to expect at least one positive experience per day. Each time we do, we can begin to recognize that we can create positive experiences. We may even learn that being in a state of gloom tends to attract experiences that match our mood. If we neglect to control our perspective, we will attract situations that match our apathy, pessimism, and resentment. We may accidentally summon the type of events and situations we claim to want to avoid. It is time to test what we can do to become surrounded by a better class of events. 

Give your humanity the possibility of taking in a breath of freedom and peace. Enjoy being alive in a vast universe welcoming you into an abundance-filled life. You might be surprised at what can happen.


When extremely distressful events occur, some individuals commemorate them by folding them in many layers of anguish. By embalming these memories in enough anger and regret, they become the millstones that define us and justify the woundedness and limitations we feel about ourselves. 

These millstones become the well-polished grievances that we weaponize to justify our lack of accomplishment and joy. By becoming part of our core values and beliefs, we doom ourselves to permanent limitations that obstruct our highest good. 

Once we recognize how we have created a Frankenstein monster from our emotional wounds, we can be motivated to rise above the self-made way we sabotage our well-being. This is the first and most essential step in recovering our humanity from the grave burden of grievances. 

Ponder on these possibilities

  1. Life is more enriching than the sum total of my memories of pain, suffering, and failures. Better attitudes and convictions are available, and I need to give them time to surface in my new awareness.
  • Everyone experiences mistakes, failures, and losses. Many of our abilities are acquired by trial and error. No mistakes or failures mean little learning. The secret is to learn to confront setbacks and commit to trying again with more significant effort, skill, and creativity. This is just as necessary for learning to walk as it is to get essential relationships right or succeed at work.
  • Our moods are magnetic. Apathy attracts more nothing. Fear attracts what we don’t want. Resentment does the same. But the cheerful anticipation of something good also attracts what we want. Use your magnetism correctly to summon what will be favorable for you. Be kind to yourself in your expectations. –2,697—
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