Afternoon Inquisition

AI: I Will Cut You

I am by no means perfect. None of us are. Life is a growing process. I try to refine my skills and behaviors as the years go by in order to promote the happiness and productivity of myself and the people around me. When I do something that I have found to be a bad or unhealthy thing, I do what I can to stop that behavior. I used to smoke cigarettes when I was younger. Once I fully realized the danger inherent in smoking, I quit. It was extremely difficult at the time but one of the best things I ever did for myself. As I get older, I realize that I need to exercise on a regular basis to stay healthy so I have incorporated that into my weekly routine as well. It’s a literal pain in the ass but well worth the effort in the end.

scissorsThere are lots of little things that I have added and subtracted from my life as the years have gone by  in order to cultivate happiness and health. However, I have stumbled upon one part of my character that I am not sure is good or bad.  I tend to think it has worked quite well for me over the years but I am curious what the rest of you think.

I will hold on to a grudge, sometimes forever. If you have wronged me or treated me badly I have a REALLY hard time letting it go. I am one of those people who would much rather forget about you than forgive you. Now, don’t get me wrong if you drop a plate or spill wine on my shirt or do something accidentally, I won’t care. I am not petty. However, if you do something intentionally or if I deem it to be a conscious attempt to hurt me emotionally or tell a lie about me in order to better yourself or to get ahead, I will find it extremely difficult to forgive you, ever. Some would call this a flaw. I would call it weeding out the assholes.

What I want to know is, am I the only one who does this? Is it part of my Surly nature? Are people happier when they forgive and forget or are you just opening yourself up to let the jerks have another swipe at you? I have never been at a loss for friends so this behavior has in no way alienated me from the group. In fact, I find myself surrounded by wonderful, honest, kind people I can trust and love. I hear so much about forgiveness, I just feel it need not always apply.

When do you feel it is better to forgive and forget? When is it appropriate to clip or cut people out of your life when they have done you wrong?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. “Weeding out the assholes” is an excellent description, and since I do the same thing, I’m going to say that it’s a perfectly good strategy. Life’s too short clutter up your personal circle with that sort.

  2. My wife seems to be more like @Amy. Weeding out the assholes. I tend to be more wishy-washy, keeping the peace type of guy. But it’s certainly a continuum and the extremes make better stories, so: One artist that Scoutgrrrl and I did a benefit with was a total control freak. We were already friends with this person and (for the most part) we still are. But neither of us will work with her on another project. I don’t have a problem hanging out at her space for other events and being friendly. So I kind of let it go there.
    OTOH, there is former friend who nearly destroyed the relationship of an entire group with her selfish garbage on the very day when Scoutgrrrl proposed to me. She was supposed to help with the whole surprise but stormed out and could not be found, all because of some true BS. And she was the only one who knew where the fucking ring was! (Someone found it in time, luckily) We will have nothing to do with her, but others have forgiven her. Why, I’ll never know.

  3. No, you aren’t the only one. I am very much like that. Once a friendship is fractured by something, I am not interested in working through it or getting past it. I generally just stop including the person in my life. It probably seems harsh but if it happens once, it will happen again, and I don’t need the drama. That said, I love my friends very much and don’t tend to be friends with people who would take those swipes at me. But it has happened.

  4. I think this is a case-by-case basis sort of thing. I would find it hard to say that I never give anyone second chances, because I think it has less to do with a personal rule and more to do with my intuition. Sometimes people deserve a second chance.

    Then again, I also think that people can change, but that’s probably just forced optimism so I don’t hang myself in the shower.

  5. I am the same way. As time goes by, I don’t really care as much about what happened, but I still don’t like the person based on the principle of what happened. And I still wouldn’t go out of my way to be friends with that person again.

    There are a select few rare people who actually do change and so I do end up forgiving them. But I’m extremely picky about it. They have to truly have changed and then I still slowly and cautiously let them back into my life. But the majority of people, I just move on. Life is too short to be constantly screwed over. I do believe in the “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” saying, as cheesy as it may sound.

    I was much more forgiving when I was younger and it never worked to my advantage. The person would just do it again (or sometimes do something even worse).

    This goes for relationships, too. So many people constantly get back together when they should move on. No relationship is perfect but there are some betrayals that are too severe to move on from – even if they never do it again, that history will always be there and the trust will never fully come back.

    One could argue that this may or may not apply to family members, since you can’t choose them. But that’s another topic altogether.

  6. I give acquaintances a lot of slack because my interaction with them is limited. If a friend does something malicious towards me or someone I love, however, I’ll almost always write them off permanently. I’d much rather have a small circle of friends I can trust than a large circle of assholes.

  7. Case by case but, in general, I am a weeder-outer. I don’t even have enough time to see the friends and family that I LIKE, no way am I dealing with extra people.

    Second chances are overrated sometimes. People don’t do things so spontaneously that they don’t have a chance to think about how it might impact other people. As I say to my husband when he tells me he’s sorry that he just farted next to my head: “If you’re really sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

  8. I think it’s pretty normal to burn bridges over the years. The weird thing is getting on Facebook and having all those ghosts want to come back. Most people don’t fit into your life for the duration of your life – maybe a rare few. There’s no point dragging sniping backstabbers with you. We aren’t in a Jane Austen novel.

  9. I’m pretty bad about holding grudges but it really depends on the situation. If someone apologizes and seems genuine about it, I am usually willing to cautiously let them back into my life.

    That’s not been much of an issue, though. Typically, when someone does something mean to me, I call them on it and they go away. Usually forever. I can handle someone being selfish or stupid, but cowardice makes me crazy.

    I tend to trust easily and be pretty optimistic in how I relate to people. That somehow makes it worse; if you do wrong me, it’s going hard for me to forgive or forget :)

  10. I usually get along with just about anybody, and it takes a lot to piss me off, but weeding out the assholes does need to be done occasionally. When someone repeatedly screws me over, I’m more than happy to be rid of them. I’ve only had to do that maybe 4 or 5 times in my life, though.

  11. I don’t think forgiveness means one necessarily has to keep a toxic person around; I think it just means letting go of the anger.

    I cut my abusive father out of my life at the end of 2000. I forgave him a year later, but I didn’t invite him back into my life because he hadn’t acknowledged his wrongdoing or made any attempt at amends for it. For me, it was just a conscious decision not to nurse old hurts any longer and to set aside the anger in favor of a newer, happier life.

  12. I’ve seen too many good friendships ruined because of grudge-holding, so I’m very careful about that. My mom and her sisters hold grudges forever. She once stopped talking to a guy who was her best friend at the time because he called her on the office phone and said “Yo mamma wears combat boots” and hung up. She took it as a personal affront and they were never friends again. She and one of her sisters are estranged and haven’t talked in 5 years. Part of being an adult is realizing that sometimes we’re not always ‘right’ when we try to project other people’s intent into their actions. I’m not saying we should hold on to perpetual wrong-doers, but I think people should at least get as many chances as a they would get in trying to hit a baseball :D

  13. One of the biggest problems I have with people in general actually relates to this issue. I really hate it when people just cut friends from their life with no warning or discussion.

    This has happend to me a few times. (And now you might say that this is because I’m rude or mean or whatever. That’s not true, what I am is a magnet for crazy people.) Usually I do or say something along the lines of saying “Hey, I think maybe your Mom might have a point and running away from home is irrational.” Or “I’m too sick/tired/busy to go clubbing with you while you are staying with me for a week, but lets go to a museum and go shopping and stuff.” These very reasonable actions/statements have ended with people cutting me from their lives in dramatic and very hurtful ways.

    While it is perfectly reasonable to not want to include someone in your life, it is not okay to go from being someone’s close friend to not answering their calls in the blink of an eye. The person being cut off is left sitting there wondering what they did and why their friend now hates them.

    And this then bleeds over into other relationships where the person who has been cut off finds themselves wondering if everyone they know actually hates them, or when the next person in their life is just going to leave.

    There is nothing wrong with breaking up with a friend because you don’t want them in your life any more. But depending on the friendship simply cutting all contact is brutal. You wouldln’t just stop answering a significant other’s calls to break up with them, and you should afford your friend the same courtesy.

  14. I, uh, can’t think of any times when someone has wronged me to the extent that they deserved weeding. Mostly, people just don’t wrong me, I guess? Or maybe I’m just always the one being the asshole and I haven’t noticed yet. Oh noes!

  15. It’s all on a scale to me. If someone says something rude to me, well, it hurts for a few minutes, OK. If they keep doing it and I ask them why they do it and don’t want to change, I don’t hang with them. If someone has betrayed trust in a deep, meaningful way, then I don’t trust them for many years or until they tell me about how they have changed and if I see the change, then fine. When I have apologized to people, I mean it and I say, I will NEVER do that again- and I don’t. People have always trusted me, probably because I grew up around animals and not many people.

  16. I tend to be the type of person who gets along with just about anyone, but if someone purposefully hurts me in some way, I will NEVER forgive.
    I think it’s a pretty good strategy. It’s probably not healthy for me to be around those kinds of people anyway.

  17. I’m a weeder. Mostly to protect myself. I’ve been told I’m an excellent listener. I sometimes attract people that need someone to listen to them. While I am careful about this, I have also been pulled in once or twice by people who have gotten the best of me and I suddenly realize that I’ve become more therapist than friend. So, I’m sorry but we’re going to have to wrap this up.

  18. @Teaspoon: I definitely agree with letting go of anger. I just tend to let the person associated with anger go as well.

    @shinobi42: I have never discarded a person without good reason and I perfectly happy telling a person why they are no longer my friend. I’m sorry you have had that experience with friends ignoring you. Those people who treated you in that way probably weren’t worth your time to begin with. It also seems like a juvenile response to not accepting critique. I would guess those people you are referring to are a tad immature.

  19. It’s probably because I’m too lazy to maintain a strong opinion about anyone for very long that I’ve never been very good at holding a grudge. On the other hand, I still seem to mildly dislike a sizable percent of the population most of the time.

  20. I may forgive someone for my own peace of mind (it’s not helpful to hold onto those feelings) but I definitely don’t forget. If someone has deliberately hurt me or betrayed my trust, I will cut them out of my life. I think weeding out the assholes is a good idea. Why remain friends with someone who doesn’t really value my friendship if they are so willing to hurt me? I may remain civil to them if we have to interact to keep the peace, this is the case with a cousin who stole from my parents.

  21. I tolerate really well. When my wife and I split up and she sprayed her one-sided view of the situation to all our mutual friends, I felt no need to lash out because I knew recrimination would only further damage the relationship, and we would have many years of needing to co-parent ahead of us. Logic prevails, and I swallowed my pride.

    And the day to day crap I ignore. I’m a computer nerd by day and a musician and music promoter by night. You wind up in all of those areas dealing with people who rub you the wrong way, and you ignore it.

    But when someone actively does something to hurt me? Different story. I believe very much in the idea that people show you their cards for a reason. I am almost never surprised by people because I take the time to understand them, and know what I can expect from them. But every now and then I’m surprised in a bad way by someone.

    I’m not one to blow up their house or shoot their mother or anything ridiculous like that, but I will hold a grudge. It’s a reminder of the fact that this person is not to be trusted.

  22. I let so much stuff slide, that if you get me to the point to where I’m pissed at you, I will always be pissed at you. There’s no turning back. That ship has sailed.

    That doesn’t happen very often, maybe once every few years.

    An example: I have an ex. We don’t talk any more. After we parted, we remained friends. then, one day we had a discussion about myths about the human body. I’m not the type who will take an accusation of being wrong lying down, so I went home and got the information to prove I was right, and posted it on facebook. I didn’t point out to anyone who this discussion was with or anything like that. The next day, I realized he had defriended me. That sent me apesh*t. I refuse to talk to him, I refuse to ask about him, I refuse to acknowledge his existance.

  23. By the way, this sort of thing goes beyond saying something stupid and hurtful. People are people and they do dumb things sometime. I have no problem forgiving that.

    I’m talking about things like stealing from me, lying about important things (say the ex who slept with me without telling me he had started seeing someone else first, we had remained friends before that), etc.

  24. @Noadi: @infinitemonkey: @biguglyjim: I totally get what you are saying. I can easily let the little things slide but once you cross the line and do something vindictive or cruel then I don’t see any real reason to keep that type of person around. There are too many kind wonderful and intelligent people just waiting to be our friends. I’d rather spend my time looking for those people and cultivating those relationships than wasting time dealing with the insensitive self-involved -jerks.

  25. @Amy: Yeah, pretty much you doing or saying anything off the cuff which was a little mean, that’s safe. We can’t all sit around a campfire and sing kumbaya. But if you purposefully do something to hurt me: you cease to exist in my world.

  26. If you wrong me, eh, I may grudge for a little while but I generally get over things fairly quickly. People suck, life moves on.

    If you wrong someone I love, I will hold a huge grudge against you for all eternity and fantasize about your spontaneous combustion.

  27. @Amy: Yup. :) It’s a brilliant world full of a lot of people I could click with in an even bigger lot of people who aren’t gonna click with me so well. That doesn’t make them better or worse, just not right for me. :)

    I spend a lot of my time caring about the people I click with. Why waste it on those I don’t? If someone is willing to degrade me or attack me, it’s time to walk away.

  28. It’s a balancing act. If I cut out every person from my life who did me wrong I’d be awfully lonely. People are inherently imperfect, so it really all depends on how close I am to the person and the degree of what they did as well as how much *I* played into the scenario.

    Maybe I need to make an equation for this.

    If: [(Hurt Factor) – (Own Stupidity)] > (Closeness Factor) , Then: burn bridge.

    This is a particularly rough subject for me right now, as my brother has decided to cut my parents completely out of his life for a year now. It’s been hard.

  29. I don’t know about grudges, but I hold onto hurts. I got married relatively late – (35). I always believed that whenever I got married it would vindicate the different pain I experienced with different women. 6 years into my relationship with my wife, I find it isn’t true at all. Whenever I daydream my way into recollections of bad experiences with former girlfriends or women I was pursuing, the old emotion comes back with all of its original pain. What a drag. I compared notes with my wife, and she says she is the same way.

  30. I’ve had similar experiences as @shinobi42 in the past. It’s not a nice thing to go through. I’ve also had the same people who cut me off completely add me on Facebook and still never say anything to me. It doesn’t make me mad it just confuses me.

    I normally give people multiple chances and try to talk through issues instead of ignoring them because I know everyone is human and everyone messes up sometimes. That being said, if peace keeping becomes more stressful than just eliminating the person from daily life then I know it’s time to let the friendship go. If I still have to be around them because we have mutual friends I’ll try my best to remain civil and keep the peace. I’m going through something with a few people that I share friends with where they have actually made a threatening phone call to my home. I’m honestly not sure why they’re upset with me because we’ve barely spoken for years. It’s an odd situation to be in. I suppose they have a grudge against me that I wasn’t made aware of since I had no idea there was a problem.

  31. I used to be more tolerant of asshattery in my “friends” and family, but the older I get, the less tolerant I am.

    After a medical issue cropped up in my late 20s that was most likely caused by something my father did to me as a kid, I told my parents that either we sit down like adults and talk about the crap that happened or I was done with them. My dad went on a rant about my apparent delusions (tell it to my very real 14-inch scar!) so that was that. I haven’t spoken with my parents since. The invitation for them to grow up and be honest is open, but I doubt it’ll happen.

    I get a lot of well-meant crap over that from people who get on well with their families and can’t imagine being estranged. People tell me I should “let go” of my “anger”. But I’m not angry, actually. I feel *free*. If I was still in contact with them, I’d be a festering ball of stress and anger all the time.

    So I like to say this to those who feel guilty about shedding family and “friends” who make them feel like shit all the time: you don’t let tumors grow just because you share blood with them. You cut them out and purge your system. It’s not always easy or pleasant but the cure is worth the pain.

    Life’s too short to waste on people who just want to drag you down. There’s tolerance and patience, which are great, but beyond a certain point we all need to say, “Enough is enough!” and leave things behind us, including people.

  32. If I don’t like someone or how someone handled something I’m usually pretty upfront about it.

    If I need the person despite my dislike for them, I will conceal my opinion of them, however. Unless I feel I have the upper hand, in which case I will still make it pretty clear that I do not approve.

    I tend to come off as somewhat unfriendly to strangers because of my shyness, so I tend not to have to do a terrible amount of cutting.

  33. I’m the worst grudge holder ever. I can get really angry at people or situations just like anyone, but I just don’t have the energy to stay mad. Not for days, and certainly not for months or years. Usually I’m over it in minutes or hours.

    I just…I guess I don’t care. To me, it’s never worth it to stay angry at people. That takes up my time and energy thinking about it.

    On the other hand, I also don’t have any problems with “removing” people from my life if they’re constantly abusive or just cause me too much heartache or trouble. Again…I just don’t feel like I want to waste all the time and energy putting up with it.

    @kimberlychapman: I read that as “Emma Watson/Alan Rickman period-dress threeway,” and was slightly horrified. Hehe. :D

  34. I hold grudges… but I try to be picky about the grudges I hold.

    I’m also a weeder. This drives my mother crazy… she’s someone who believes you should forgive endlessly for fear of regret later. She’s a better person than I am.

    If that guy is still looking for a new best friend, send him my way. That guy rocks!

  35. I have a relatively small group of friends, quality friends but still an overall small group. With one of my friends, my best one actually, I have had at least three separate fights/arguments that have ended up with us not speaking to each other for several months.

    Each time when we’ve repaired our friendship, I think it has taught me a lesson. One of those times it was that apparently almost the entire fight had been instigated and orchestrated by a mutual, third friend who kept giving each of us misinformation. Not on purpose, but it ended up reaching the result of my friend and I not speaking to each other. I learned that my original estimation of the events in question were horribly skewed, that I didn’t have all of the facts, and that I had made the wrong decision in writing off my friend.

    There are definitely times when you can write someone off, take them out of the running to be your friend, but I think it is hard to judge when those times happen. I think back to how I acted/the kind of person I was even a few years ago, and who I am now wouldn’t think very highly of past-self.

    People change, they grow, their paradigms shift, so I’m always open to reviving and maintaining a friendship. Never know which asshole from High School is gonna end up being a genuinely nice person.

    Ooh, also first time post, yay!

  36. Anyone who wrongs me and does so based on ignorance or a misunderstanding, usually receives an opportunity to redeem themselves. Someone who acts with malicious intent gets permanently erased from the Friday Night Lasagna and Margarita party guest list.

  37. There’s a line. Once crossed, I will burn that bridge in a cold, quiet fury before walking away with little regret. But before then, I’ll forgive, forgive, and forgive. Most of it’s small stuff that I can’t bring myself to care about overly much. However, with each phase of forgiveness, arm’s length tends to get a little bit longer.

  38. @Teaspoon: and @Tometheus: I could not have said it better myself. IMO, the mark of a truly adult person is the ability to forgive and let go of anger.

    One thing I’ve noticed as I have gotten into my 40’s is that I don’t get as angry about stupid or insensitive behavior from my friends or family. When I was in my twenties every slight or careless behavior on the part of a friend was cause to get angry and hold a grudge. Now, I don’t have time for that BS.

    “…I think people should at least get as many chances as they would get in trying to hit a baseball” – Tometheus


  39. @shinobi42: I can definitely relate. That’s happened to me both in family and in friendships.

    I’m fairly laid back as I enter late middle age. I don’t get as upset as I used to if I cross swords with a friend. It’s occasionally going to happen, as none of us are perfect and we all have our hot button subjects. I’ve found that being able to admit when I’m wrong and apologizing can work wonders.

    I have so few “in person” friendships that I highly value each one. It’s not that I don’t value my (many more) “virtual” friendships like those here, it’s more that we all need human contact and that’s something in very short supply in my life.

    On that note, if someone “turns” on me after a long friendship, what bothers me is why it happened. I’d just like to know, in case I have done something to cause it. I might be able to make amends, given the other person is willing.

    If a friendship is indeed over, I tend to dwell on it. Those wounds can take a long time to heal. I tend to turn on myself that way. Part of my personal bag of issues, I guess. Hence the next paragraph:

    The worst “de-friending” in my life came via my actually getting too close to someone. The other person made the right decision that we had better go our separate ways, but it still hurts several months later. Maybe it’s because I know deep down that person was correct.

    I generally subscribe to “Once is a coincidence, twice is happenstance, three times is deliberate action.” I will modify that depending on the person and situation. I’m also willing to give a person a second chance. I try not to hold grudges, but that’s a personal fault that’s been hard for me to overcome.

  40. Totally off the subject, can anyone tell my why my Gravatar keeps changing back and forth between Marvin and Bender?

    I haven’t changed anything on Gravatar since I installed the Bender graphic and made it my Gravatar…??

  41. Amy, I do the same thing. I have long worried that ‘weeding out assholes’ has maybe cut off a few opportunities for me, but in the end I suppose I don’t care. Life is short, I don’t have time for shit. Maybe as I get older I will become more patient and forgiving, who knows…

  42. My philosophy on this issue is simple and straightforward: Always forgive, never forget.

    Of course there are some people I have forgiven who I will still have nothing to do with voluntarily. Nobody’s perfect.

  43. I am exactly the same way.

    Actually, a little over a year ago, my (ex)best friend and I had a small fight that I was totally willing to forgive and forget (both parties were to blame) after my bit of brooding and cool-off time. She took it upon herself to send me a lengthy e-mail riddled with lies, gross misunderstandings, and half-truths.

    I was so angry that I sent a short e-mail back disputing all of her claims and apology that a 10 year friendship had to end in such a way.

    I have, sense then, found a group of friends that love dearly and have warned about my previous situation. Hey have been threatened with a stabbing.

  44. I’m a rotten friend. I flake all the time, disappear for years then call at 3am crying…
    Usually, when it comes to ending friendships I am the dumpee and for good reason.
    On the other hand, I have actually known friends (of mine) who were worse at friendship than I am. In those cases, I tend to just let them drift away…unless they call ME at 3am crying. Then I call it karma and do my friendly duty.

  45. @ElvisAndretti:
    yeah – Forgive your enemies, remember their names. :)

    I’m very tolerant of people and don’t get angry at people very easily. I try to avoid those people who get pleasure from hurting me, whether they are successful or not.

    Once I’ve made a decision to ignore or move past a person, I rarely try to rebuild a bridge.

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