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April 15 is National Tax Day in the US, which is not very popular. But it is also National Eraser Day. Eraser day is referring to the eraser at the end of a pencil. But I am referring to the possibility of erasing grudges in our lives, so that we can have a freer more open-hearted life.

When I was growing up, I only had one grandparent, who lived with our family for several weeks three or four times a year. My father played with me a lot, read stories at night, laughed and joked, and was a wonderful father. Barry is that kind of man, always playing and loving and believing in our two grandsons.

My grandfather was none of those things. He was stern and bitter. Earlier in his life, he had owned a business with his brother, and he felt that his brother had cheated him. He often obsessed about that supposed injustice, even to me as a little girl. He wanted me to know every single detail.

I remember having to sit and listen to him tell me all the details. There was so much bitterness in his voice. My father told me that the story got worse with each telling, and that he was not sure that his uncle had in fact cheated my grandfather.  My parents believed in honoring elders and so my grandfather was allowed to keep telling this story, even though none of us wanted to hear it.

Holding A Grudge

One day, his brother called, and my mother picked up the phone. The brother told her that he was dying and wished to come to our house and see my grandfather to say good-bye. His daughter would drive him. My mother was so happy and went to tell my grandfather, who refused to see him because of the things that he had done to cheat him, probably thirty years earlier. My mother argued with him and told him this was a chance to be free of this terrible grudge.

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It was the only time I ever heard my gentle Swedish mother raise her voice to an elder. My grandfather still refused to see his brother and my mother went back to deliver the disappointing news.

My mother was so upset that she came to me and in a very serious voice told me to never do what my grandfather was doing, "You must never carry a grudge. Always seek to let it go. That grudge has made your grandfather a very bitter man." 

That incident had a profound effect on my impressionable teenage self, and I remember every detail of the event. My grandfather died several years later bringing that grudge with him to his grave.

Bitter Words, Better Words

Fifteen years later, I realized that I was in fact carrying a grudge against my grandfather. One incident in particular stands out. I was seventeen and had a date to the prom. I made my own dress because we had no money to buy one. Finally, on the evening of the prom, I came downstairs in my new dress. My grandfather, watching me from his chair in the living room, in front of my proud mother and father, loudly proclaimed to them, "She looks just like a street walker," and he used the German term for a prostitute. My mother and father were horrified, and I was shocked and disgraced.

Why couldn't he have been the warm and loving grandfather that most children have? I really could not remember one incident of warmth or caring from him. I knew from all the growth that I had done that a powerful way of letting go of a grudge is to remember even one positive thing about the person.

I thought and thought for many weeks and came up with nothing. He never touched me inappropriately and I felt very grateful about that. But I needed a positive memory and so I continued to contemplate this and, after much thought and prayer, I remembered that when I was in high school and studying German, my grandfather would come out for breakfast each morning and teach me a new German word or phrase.

Now this may not sound like much, but for me it did the trick in allowing me to let go of my grudge towards him. He took time each day to teach me a new word and I could sense caring in that.

From then on, whenever I would think about my grandfather, I would think about those German words and the caring thought that went into them. As I remembered something positive, I felt lighter and freer. The grudge was gone. Yes, I still wish I could have experienced a loving grandfather, but I can always go back to the caring in those German words.

Releasing Resentments and Grudges

We just finished a workshop and, as one of the practices, we led an exercise on letting go of grudges. It was a hard assignment yet, with the help of the group, each person was able to remember at least one positive thing which allowed them to take a step toward letting go of their grudge. A woman in the workshop quoted the popular quote, "Holding a grudge or resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

There is a Sufi saying, "If you have room in your heart for one enemy, then that is an unsafe place for a friend." May we all do the inner work of releasing the resentments and grudges that we hold, and make our hearts a truly safe place.

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Book by this Author: A Couple of Miracles

A Couple of Miracles: One Couple, More Than a Few Miracles
by Barry and Joyce Vissell.

book cover of: A Couple of Miracles by Barry and Joyce Vissell.We write our story, not only to entertain you, our readers, and certainly you will be entertained, but more so to inspire you. One thing we have learned after seventy-five years in these bodies, living on this earth, is that all of us have lives filled with miracles.

We sincerely hope you will look at your own lives with new eyes, and discover the miraculous in so many of your own stories. Like Einstein said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Click here for more info and/or to order this book. Also available as a Kindle edition.

About the Author(s)

photo of: Joyce & Barry VissellJoyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors, near Santa Cruz CA, who are passionate about conscious relationship and personal-spiritual growth. They are the authors of 9 books and a new free audio album of sacred songs and chants. Call 831-684-2130 for further information on counseling sessions by phone, on-line, or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops.

Visit their website at for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.

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Video Interview with Joyce and Barry Vissell: A Couple of Miracles