How to be tolerant and forgiving with your spouse.
We have a mitzvah not to bear a grudge. Since it's a commandment, it must be something we are capable of fulfilling. The Almighty is not perverse.
Yet we also experience difficulty in letting go of a grudge. How can we succeed in fulfilling this mitzvah?
As hard as it is to let go, and as paradoxically pleasurable as it is to nurse a grudge, we know that it clouds our life. It diminishes our joy and inhibits our relationships.
Bearing a grudge harms the most important relationships we have -- with our spouses, our friends, our colleagues, and it hardens and calluses our souls.
Letting go frees us. We can exhale and breathe again. It opens us up to more profound experiences and deeper relationships.
Tolerating certain traits and behaviors is the secret to a successful marriage. Everyone (even us!) has annoying traits and irritating behaviors. Every one of our spouses has them too. Every one of us has said or done hurtful things. (every one of our spouses has too!) We need to be able to move on.
Some issues need to be discussed. But most of the time we need to let it go.
Not every time. Some issues need to be discussed. Some need to be resolved. But most of the time we need to let it go. Especially if there has been an apology. We have to refrain from keeping a list, even a mental one, that we trot out on every frustrating occasion.
For example, even though my husband doesn't remember the first time he met me… even though there were only three other people in the room... even though we were there for hours…I'm letting go and I'm not going to mention it again.
The worst possible thing to say in any argument is "You always…" Just deal with the situation at hand. And then forget about it. Life is too short to hold corrosive grudges. And marriage is too precious.
As we all know, we ourselves are the biggest victims of our grudges. They harden our hearts and limit our ability to take pleasure. Why should anyone else be given that level of control over our well-being?
We have to be able to move past the issues. Frequently our constant harping is worse than the initial transgression. Most hills are not worth dying on.
But how do we do it? How can we let go?
1. Always be the first to apologize. Don't brood, don't be resentful, don't be a martyr -- and don't worry about who is right. Just say "I'm sorry" (the author of Love Story has a lot of unhappy marriages to answer for).
2. "Don't sweat the small stuff." Most things are not even worth noticing, let alone fighting over. Keep your eyes on the big picture, on the end goal. There will be some issues that require further "conversation" but choose your battles carefully.
3. Focus on the credit in the bank. All the acts of kindness and caring from your spouse over the last 30 years are not wiped out by one (or two) acts of thoughtlessness. In comparison, these blips on the radar screen are not worth of our notice.
4. Accept your spouse's (or friend's – most of this advice applies to friends as well) limitations. As you hope he or she will accept yours. We often spend a lot of time focused on what's missing in others and not enough time on the deficiencies we can do something about -- our own.
5. Be introspective and judge favorably. Many of our grudges result from oversensitivity. They're not ignoring us; they're preoccupied with their own concerns.
6. Don't take it personally. Most people's behavior is a reflection of who they are and consistent with that. If you experience someone as cold, that's probably how they seem to everyone they meet. It's not about you so you can let it go.
Bearing a grudge destroys all relationships and ultimately the bearer himself. It is not only a mitzvah but it is in our self-interest to let it go and move on. Let's pray that the Almighty gives us the strength and perspective to do so.