Walking down the road one day an older gentleman in a tattered grey overcoat came upon a young man holding a bright green rock. A foul-smelling gas was coming from the rock as the young man held it tightly, examining it’s surfaces.
“Sir”, said the old man. “Did you know that what you are holding is very poisonous?”
The young man looked surprised. “It isn’t poisonous! It’s extremely rare and you can’t have it. It is all mine and I’m not letting go of it.”
“Trust me, it is not that rare. It is poisonous, however, and it will have a great affect on you.”
“Yeah right. Can you prove that it is poison?”
“Well, tell me how you found it.”
“This morning I was walking through the park, talking with an acquaintance. This man had come to tell me that one of my so called “friends” had been spreading some unkind rumors about me all around town. I got pretty upset and kicked over a trash can. As I did, this green rock rolled out. I had never seen anything quite like it so I hurried over and picked it up. And now it is mine. Look at it! I’m pretty sure it is valuable.
“How valuable?” asked the old man.
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Well, if I tried to take it from you, would you let me or would you fight to hang onto it?”
“I would fight you.”
“Okay. Let’s think of someone else then. If the so called “friend” who gossiped about you came and said he was sorry, would you give him the rock as a token of your renewed friendship?”
“No way! I don’t want to see him ever again.”
“Hmm. How do you think he feels knowing that you found this precious rock?”
“He doesn’t even know about it so I don’t see why he would even care.”
“I see your point. Your possession of the rock has absolutely no influence on his life at all. Well now that you’ve held this “precious” rock for a little while, how do you feel?”
“I’m pretty proud of myself for finding it. It is so rare, I’m pretty sure I won’t be giving it up any time soon. I feel really good about myself, although the smelly gas is kind of annoying and uncomfortable.”
“Well I did tell you that it is poison. That gas is more than uncomfortable, if you breathe it long enough it will soak in and your skin will start to smell the same way. After a few years, it will probably kill you. But by that point you won’t have any friends because no one will want to be around someone who smells so bad. So you’ll probably die alone. Trust me, I traveled a long way down that path before I realized how poisonous those rocks can be.”
“Okay mister, so you’re telling me that this incredibly rare stone I found is actually poisonous and will turn my skin smelly then make me lose all of my friends while slowly killing me? And you know this because you’ve been there. But look at you, you are old and happy. You didn’t die at all and you don’t smell. I think you lost your own rock and now you’re jealous of mine. I’m going to hold onto this stone until the day I die and prove you wrong!”
With that, the young man stormed away, trailing a thin wisp of putrid smoke behind him. The old man continued along the road shaking his head, deep in reflection.
Before too long, the young man did lose all of his friends. He took care of that rock everywhere he went. He polished it and put it on the mantle in his home. Everybody in his life pulled away, unable to bear the smell that seemed to come from his every pore. In the end, the poisonous fumes made him more and more sick until the day he passed away. Just as he had declared years before, he carried that rock all the way to the grave and was buried with it clutched in his hands.
So why do I share this parable?
I came up with this parable to teach about one of the great problems that can literally ruin your life and destroy your friendships. The poisonous rock represents a grudge. You’ll remember that the young man first heard the news about the rumors spreading around town, then he got offended, and then he found the rock and became attached to it.
When we allow ourselves to become offended and then hold onto those bitter feelings, we become like the young man with the rock. The person who caused us to get offended has no idea that we are holding onto these feelings. Their life goes on without being affected at all. But we stew on it over and over. It starts to consume us. It leaks out into our actions and affects the way we act to others in our life. Before long our attitude stinks so bad that we lose friendships and years of happiness because we can’t let go of that stupid poisonous rock.
So what should we do?
Here are some simple steps that I found useful when I was trying to let go of some grudges I had been holding onto for years:
- Look at your life and think of anyone who you are holding negative feelings towards.
- Write their names or the offense down on a piece of paper.
- Say to yourself, “I forgive these people for whatever actions have caused me to be offended.”
- Burn the paper or flush it down the toilet
- Go on with your life!
Stop wasting your time being offended and holding grudges! Life is too short to spend even a single day in anger and resentment. I guarantee you that the person you hold a grudge towards hasn’t thought twice about it in the last few months. So it is only affecting you. It is time to let it go!
Go on and drop the poison!
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