How do you reconcile wanting a kinder, gentler world and also wishing for nothing but misfortune for your enemies? You accept the cleansing power of a deep and passionate grudge, says Emily Writes.
The famous philosopher Will Smith once said: “Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.” He also renamed Y2k ‘Will2K’ and the Millennium ‘the Willennium’. In light of this, as a Williennial myself I really should take his advice. But I can’t.
I sincerely wish, in this my 34th year on the planet, that I could be a true adult and hold no grudges. I wish I could cast out hate. And be just that nice girl instead of that bitch. But that bitch I am, and I’m sorry to say that the truth is, there is great joy in holding and nurturing a pure, fiery bitterness. The love of a grudge cannot be denied.
Yet deny it we do. Nobody wants to admit they’re the person with a shit list. It feels petty. Nobody wants to be seen doing that filthy activity of hate reading someones toxic words just so you can say: “See, this bitch”. It’s unseemly. We want to do better, be better – to show the truth is to prove we’re human. And who wants to be human these days? In all its shitty fallibility.
The older I get the more resentful I have become, to the point where I’m starting to understand why so many boomers are the way they are. I try to be positive, as positive as I can be, because that’s the lot of mothers when you have little balls of optimism in the form of children around you.
After a day of enthusiastically answering questions about worms and what would happen to a banana if it didn’t have skin, I climb into bed surrounded by children and I close my eyes and I bring my grievances to the fore.
There’s something relaxing about hating someone. We’re constantly told it’s a terrible thing to do, that to do so will eat you away, consume you, “give you cancer”.
But we very rarely talk about the meditative power of thinking about how much someone truly sucks. How mean and stupid they are. How very wrong they are about everything.
We don’t consider the fortifying quality of a good fantasy where your enemy is caught short, with gastro, banging on the door of a crusty petrol station bathroom with shit running down their leg.
A solid hate for someone is like a crush. Others can’t always understand it, can’t see what you see. In my group chat if we mention a colleague or someone we barely know and we say their latest behaviour is outrageous, we might just be met with a calm response saying “you’re at Bitch Eating Crackers phase” or just “crackers”. This is when you hate someone so much you look at them and say “look at that bitch eating crackers”. You’re so irrational in your hate that the fact that they exist shits you to tears.
But there’s something about that secret irrationality that makes the shit you have to deal with manageable. As someone almost definitely on a bunch of Bitch Eating Crackers lists, it consoles me knowing there are people I loathe just as equally. An opinion of you can be ignored, flung into the sea, if you consider that the person who said it is someone you’ve always considered to be a heinous shitbag.
There’s something so immensely satisfying with hearing your foe’s name and then a story about how insufferable they are. Yes! You were right in your contempt!
The frustration of someone using your name to further themselves, or pushing their shitty agenda, is somehow tolerable if you are able to deliberate on the many ways they suck. We want to be better humans but being better is hard. Resentment is not only easy, you can do it with your eyes closed.
In a culture where we’re constantly encouraged to self-improve to the detriment of our mental and physical health, hating people feels a bit rebellious. It’s immature and by gosh it’s fun to be immature when you have to be so damn mature all the time. So very adult. I am very drawn to Be Kind culture because it’s what I hope for, strive for. But thinking malicious thoughts is a cigarette in a bar at 2am. It’s illicit and delicious. It’s not who you want to be, it’s who you are in that moment.
It’s an escape – a chance to just take a break from being who you’re meant to be.
But it’s the return from rancor that matters I think. That you do recognise the malevolence and pack it away for a later date to muse on instead of unleashing it into the world. It’s easy to see who among us cannot clean up their bad blood to just get on with it.
We see so many people who have let their spite spill over and then like a broken levee there’s no going back. There’s no containing the slide of shit and mud and they sour every interaction. This is what makes judgement or grudge-ment even, so socially unacceptable. It’s something you’re meant to do in private, or among the people who get you. Like masturbating, it’s not meant to be a public sport.
And when it does become one, you can see the slow decline. The person who used to be a reasonable voice becomes the vulture picking on whatever scraps fuel their bitterness. They’re rightfully called into line but this only makes them spiral into a weird place where all the worst people are. Others who slid down that slippery slope. They’re “of the left” but somehow “the Righteous Left” hates them. Everyone is an “extremist” to them. They claim they’re cast out from their community “for no reason”. The reasons are obvious.
It’s a tale as old as time – but at least it’s one we can all learn from. You let your grudge grow too big and it swallowed you and now you can only spew that venom in a torrent that captures everyone.
The secret is to keep your little ball of resentment contained. Like the time you tried acid and thought, “Why doesn’t everyone take acid every day! It’s so great!” The answer is that, as good as it feels right now, it won’t always feel this good – not every time. And it will alter the way you think. It will flash behind your eyes when you least expect it and you’ll no longer have control. And you can’t be all the things you want to be – a good parent, a good partner, a good friend – if you’re just off your chops all day.
Treat your grudge like your favourite drug. In moderation. Savour the illicitness, the badness of it all. But remember, nobody wants to be trapped next to that guy at a party. Everyone else is sober.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.