Let It Go: How Holding Grudges Affects Your Health
An Accidental Absolution
Sometimes forgiveness is a conscious decision. In other situations, it's unexpected. When her sister told her she could no longer be the one to care for their dying mother, writer Joyce Maynard, 55, of Mill Valley, California, was certain she'd never forgive the heartbreak it caused her. Her sister had been taking care of their mother but Maynard had flown in to help. "From the moment I arrived I was cutting flowers, baking pies, messing up the kitchen," Maynard says. "I was impetuous, imprudent -- one day when I was helping my mom down the stairs to sit in the garden, she fell."
"She needs to see the flowers," Maynard protested, when her sister confronted her. "But you weren't being safe," her sister responded. The fight escalated to the point where Maynard's sister told her she could no longer stay in the house. For nearly two decades afterward the siblings barely spoke.
And then one day a few days before Maynard's birthday her daughter asked what time of day she had been born. "I had no idea," Maynard recalls. "And there was no one to ask." On her birthday a card arrived from her sister. "I will be thinking of you at 6:53 p.m.," she wrote.
In that moment, Maynard says, she realized her sister was the only person on earth who remembered the moment of her birth and she didn't want to lose that. "I was moved by the fact that my sister reached out to me, and I tried to imagine I was her: a person who experiences life so differently from me, and always has." This moment of pure compassion allowed Maynard, finally, to forgive her sister and let go of the grudge.