New Year’s resolutions can be contrived, overly ambitious, and guilt inducing, but the notion of setting goals is really very practical. They give us an excuse to take stock of our daily lives and recalibrate what is truly important to us. In fact, residents of Chumbivilcas, a tiny and remote Peruvian village in the Andes mountains have been doing this for centuries in a most unexpected way.
Every December 25th, the villagers celebrate “Takanakuy”, a festival in which men, women, and children settle grudges with fistfights in order to welcome the New Year with a clean slate. While the brawls are genuine and fierce, each fight begins and ends with a hug. The ritual is both an opportunity to resolve conflicts and a form of social catharsis.
While I wouldn’t advocate the measures these Peruvians take to settle the score, putting old grievances to rest is one of the best things we can do to start the year on the right foot. Is there someone against whom you are holding a grudge? Perhaps you are harboring resentment towards a colleague at work or have ended a friendship badly. Maybe you’re not exactly angry but still feel awkward meeting certain people in the hallway at work.
It is elementary that our lives would improve in the absence of anger and resentment, but its not always obvious how or to what degree. Did you know that one of the chief causes of fatigue is anger? It literally saps our energy, leaving us withered and compromised. When we allow someone to upset us to the degree that we hold on to their offense, we concede ground to them. The harm that was done initially pales in comparison to the long-term effects of our bitterness, which must be fed on a daily basis with precious resources we should be using to cherish loved ones and be more productive.
I’m reminded of one time when I went into a store to return a swimsuit. The clerk behind the counter examined the article, issued a smarmy remark about the large size of the garment, laughed about it with her coworker and refused the refund. I hurled a rude insult at her and left the store fuming. Humiliated by the obnoxious saleswoman and also my own bad behavior, I called my husband to let off steam. He informed me that I had allowed the woman not only steal to my pride, but the rest of my day as well. The sad truth is, I conceded many more days to her afterwards. I was only able to defuse my inner turmoil by sharing the story with a group of friends who made me laugh about it.
Ephesians 4:31 instructs, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you.” Whatever your aims for 2015, think about adding a philosophical goal to the list: reconcile with your adversaries.
Dr. Stanley shares five steps to help us let go of offenses in his article “Forgiving Others.”