Is It Healthy to Hold on to Grudges? Many Say “No”

“One of my favorite party games is to ask a group of people this simple question: What is your oldest or most cherished grudge? Without fail, every person unloads with shockingly specific, intimate detail about their grudge.” T. Herrera, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key


Excerpt: Let Go of Your Grudges. They’re Doing You No Good.By Tim Herrera, The NYT

“Career slights (intentional or not), offhand-yet-cutting remarks, bitter friendship dissolutions; nothing is too small or petty when it comes to grudges.

One of my favorite answers I’ve gotten to this question came from a friend whose grudge stretched back to second grade. A classmate — he still remembered her full name and could describe her in detail — was unkind about a new pair of Coke-bottle glasses he had started wearing. Her insult wasn’t particularly vicious, but he’d been quietly seething ever since. Childhood!

But what does holding onto grudges really get us, aside from amusing anecdotes at parties… And what could we gain from giving them up?

I posed this question on Twitter last week, asking if people had ever given up on a grudge and, if so, how that made them feel. The responses were delightfully all over the place.

Yeah pretty much most of them since entering my 30s,’ one respondent said. ‘It feels cleansing to free up the brain space.’‘Literally not once,’ another said‘I felt neutral!!’ one more wrote. ‘Like I just couldn’t be bothered anymore but also I didn’t feel relieved or anything. Just indifferent.’

A 2006 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology as part of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, suggested that ‘skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms, and thereby may help reduce’ the stress we put on our immune and cardiovascular systems.

Let Go of Grudges-Image- CafeMom

‘Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master. That’s the reality of it,’ said Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

‘Whenever you can’t grieve and assimilate what has happened, you hold it in a certain way,’ he said. ‘If it’s bitterness, you hold it with anger. If it’s hopeless, you hold it with despair. But both of those are psycho-physiological responses to an inability to cope, and they both do mental and physical damage.’

At the same time, he said, the converse is true: Full forgiveness can more or less reverse these negative repercussions of holding onto anger and grudges.

O.K., so getting over grudges is good. But how do we do it?

1. Forgiveness is for you, not the offender. 2. It’s best to do it now. 3. It’s about freeing yourself …Perhaps most crucially, Dr. Luskin stressed, forgiveness is a learnable skill. It just takes a little practice.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic, ‘grudges’.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming Map by


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. What is a grudge?
  2. What is your most cherished grudge?
  3. Some grudges stem from career slights.
  4. Other grudges caused bitter friendship dissolutions.
  5. One person has been quietly seething ever since childhood.
  6. Grudges can be used as amusing anecdotes at parties.
  7. One response Mr. Herrera received was the most introspective one.
  8. Another response sounded like a cliché.
  9. It has been revealed that releasing grudges can alleviate stress.
  10. Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation.


Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. Getting under grudges is good.
  2. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to become their friend.
  3. Sometimes just taking a deep breath can help.




  1. You have to counter-condition the stress response.
  2. You should think about the source of yourself grudge.
  3. Change your story from that of a victim.


  1. Calm yourself down in the moment.
  2. Life doesnt’  always turn out the way we want it to.
  3. Anger can have immune implications.


Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. One of the author’s favorite party games is to ask a group of people,  ‘What is your oldest or most cherished dream?’
  2. The author’s wife attends these parties
  3. When it comes to grudges, they must be big ones.
  4. According to the article some people hold grudges from childhood.
  5. When asked if  they had ever given up on a grudge a few people replied simply: ‘No.’
  6. The author has children who hold grudges.
  7. Dr. Frederic Luskin  is the founder of the Hold on to Grudges Project.
  8. Full forgiveness has four actions, according to Dr. Luskin.
  9. According to Dr. Luskin forgiveness is a learnable skill.
  10. The author admits that grudges can be fun to hold.


Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. According to Mr. Herrera  Forgiveness is for you, not the offender.” Do you agree with his statement?  Explain why or why not.
  2. What’s the longest period of time that you’ve held a grudge against someone?  What made you release the grudge?
  3. Did you feel better after giving up your grudge?
  4. What did Mr. Herrera mean by the following question,Do you enjoy holding these grudges in some way, perhaps tending to them  ‘like little pets’? Or, do they ‘own’ you and affect your happiness and peace of mind?

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


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