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No Sympathy for Grudgeholders

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"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Alice has done wrong, which upsets or enrages Bob. But Alice sincerely apologizes to Bob and asks for his forgiveness, hoping the two of them can start all over again. Much to Alice's displeasure, Bob rejects her apology and vows to never forgive her for what she's done, and along comes this trope. As a result of Bob's unforgiving approach and his tendency to hold a grudge, he is receiving criticism and antagonism from other characters for not being forgiving to Alice. They knew that Alice's apology was very sincere, and it was appropriate for Bob to forgive. They may think that the more Bob holds a grudge, he'll be just as bad as the one who wronged him. Either way, someone else starts losing sympathy for Bob because of the rejected apology.

This can be taken to ridiculous levels if the wrongdoer never sincerely apologizes for or continues his actions, yet the victim gets flak for not forgiving him. When it's bad enough, the grudgeholders may well let go of their grudge and sincerely apologize to the people around, but then people will still hold him in a bad position, creating a chain of grudgeholders. One reason why this provokes such anger is that if you refuse to accept reparations, you may end up making your destruction a tactical necessity for someone who (no longer) has nothing against you; a form of Don't Make Me Destroy You.

Many revenge plots will involve a character successfully carrying out their revenge on their tormentor, but as a result, their loved ones become ashamed of him, telling him he's just as bad as their tormentor. It's possible for the character to feel remorseful for carrying out their revenge, and may undo the damage that revenge has caused. Or maybe not. Expect this trope to be enforced in a work focusing on a character to learn how to forgive.

The opposite of Punished for Sympathy where a character receives contempt from others for showing pity, kindness, and mercy to the offender. This can be one of the ways where a character is Made Out to Be a Jerkass. A subtrope of The Complainer Is Always Wrong. Often overlaps with Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse and Victim-Blaming. If the character has deeply injured a third party, the Ordered Apology may be demanded for forgiveness. Can be due to the belief that If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him! or If You Taunt Him, You Will Be Just Like Him.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Love Stage!!, Izumi is known for holding grudges, three weeks being his record, so when he and Ryouma have an argument on set, Rei just tells him to get over it and make up with Ryouma so they can continue filming the show.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: The main antagonist of the Jinchuu arc, Yukishiro Enishi, is angry at Kenshin Himura for having unwittingly killed his sister Tomoe during the Bakumatsu. Even though Kenshin believes Enishi is entitled to his revenge and that his grudge is perfectly understandable, the methods he and his comrades resort to are rather extreme. Kenshin calls him out on these unjustified acts of violence that have resulted in people being injured and nearly losing their lives as Enishi didn't focus on him specifically. At the end though, the two resolve their conflict with a fair duel, which Kenshin is happy to accept.
  • Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches: Yamada's former friend Ushio asks to help lift the charm power off Odagiri when it backfired on her resulting in her falling in love with Yamada. Yamada decides to leave them to their own mess since they both made Shiraishi miss an important test and blackmailed Yamada to gain an edge in an election for student council. However, even after Ushio agrees to set things right, Yamada still refuses to help, due to a past event where he and Ushio end up in a street fight near the beginning of school, a fight that Ushio himself started, and he pins the blame on Yamada, resulting in his All of the Other Reindeer status. When Shiraishi calls Yamada out on holding a grudge, he begrudgingly agrees to help Odagiri.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Dan wants the enforcers to destroy a McDonalds near his house because they rejected him for a job... back when he was in high school. The other two guys tell him to get over it.
  • X-Men: In Magneto's backstory, his wife leaves him because he killed the people who prevented him from rescuing their daughter from a fire, causing him no end of confusion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Batman Begins, Rachel is offended that Bruce was planning to shoot Joe Chill over the murder of his parents, and she slaps him when she finds out. Although in this case, it's less that she was upset just because he still nursed a grudge over it and more that he was planning to commit murder over it, and according to her end up becoming just like Joe Chill.
    Rachel Dawes: You're just another coward with a gun. Your father would be ashamed of you.
  • In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Buzz humiliates Kevin during the Christmas concert, and between Buzz's prank and Kevin's retaliation, the concert is ruined. Later, in front of the family, Buzz (insincerely) apologizes to Kevin for what he did, then covertly taunts Kevin about it. Kevin refuses to accept the apology or apologize for his own actions. The result is that Buzz receives no punishment while Kevin is banished to the attic for the night. Have we mentioned that Kevin's family are far from embodiments of the Christmas spirit?

  • Discworld: In The Truth, Mr. Tulip tells Mr. Pin that as long as you have a potato and are sorry, it's all right, you'll get another chance. So Mr. Pin steals Mr. Tulip's potato, murders him, and when he dies, assures Death that he's sorry. Death proceeds to Exact Words him.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry has no sympathy for Snape whatsoever, and for good reason, unusually for this trope. Snape takes a lot of time to belittle and insult James, who saved Snape's life from a fully transformed Lupin, and Snape says that if there had been justice James would have been expelled for his actions. Of course, Snape then outs Lupin as a werewolf, which forces the latter to resign at the end of the school year. It doesn't help that he badmouths James to Harry, his own son, without giving him any legit arguments about his grudge and merely insulting him the same way that he insults and mistreats Harry without any reason. Only when Harry sees what James did to Snape does he reconsider Snape's feelings towards the matter, but his tendency to still antagonise Harry and act like a villain carries this case away from this trope and straight into Revenge by Proxy and a few other tropes.
  • In Louisa May Alcott's Little Men, Jack leaves a letter saying that neither Nat nor Dan had stolen the money and runs away. His father sends him back. Professor Bhaer informs that he will have to apologize to the boy he stole from, and the boys he let suffer under the suspicion, and Jack is sulky because he had said he was sorry in the letter. The professor tells him he will have to work to regain trust.
  • Pavel Young does this to Honor Harrington. His grudge for a beating she gave him at the Academy (which she did because he tried to rape her) led him to spend years pulling strings trying unsuccessfully to sabotage her career....all while thinking she was hounding him, taking his constant stream of crap assignments and missed promotions as evidence she was plotting against him with an army of partisans. In reality, his obsessive grudge-holding had gotten him onto the black books of a lot of senior officers, especially those who actually had met Honor and been impressed.
  • In The House of Night, Rephaim murders Dragon's wife. He later switches sides, and Zoey is shocked that Dragon doesn't forgive Rephaim.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians Nico holds a book-long grudge against Percy for Bianca's death, even if it wasn't his fault and Percy apologizes profusely. Bianca herself tells him to knock it off, and that holding grudges is the Fatal Flaw for children of Hades. In the sequel series, Nico splits the difference: he's mostly forgiven Percy (having a crush on him helped), but he's still got a lot of negative feelings towards the Hunters of Artemis, which Bianca joined. He was willing to contact their leader, Thalia Grace, for help, but is absolutely furious when they kidnap his friend Reyna and leave him a note that they'll bring her back and warning him to stay put. On the other hand, he admits that he just can't resent his romantic rival Annabeth, because she's always been kind to him.
  • George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Most of the problems in the feudal society happen because everybody holds on to grudges and refuses to learn how to forgive. Stannis Baratheon and Tyrion Lannister are both perpetually angry that they are not respected. Catelyn Stark towards the Lannisters and later the undead who returns to perpetuate her cycle of revenge. Likewise, Daenerys Targaryen refuses to see the enemies of her psychotic father as anything other than "usurper's dogs".
    • In-Universe, House Frey is seen this way. They hate their fellow nobles who look at them as Nouveau Riche and upstarts, while their fellow nobles resent House Frey because they are petty in settling their grudges and refuse to render leal service to their Liege Lords without asking for the tiniest advantage and leg-up. This leads to a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and even if, the Freys had genuine grievances towards Robb Stark, their cruel massacre at the Red Wedding is so much a Moral Event Horizon that anybody who doesn't want the Freys explicitly dead is still unwilling to trust them and disgusted by having to work with them.
  • In A Week in the Woods, the protagonist Mark (whose family is constantly moving) behaves rudely to his new teacher Mr. Maxwell but regrets his actions soon after. He gives him an apology letter, but Mr. Maxwell refuses to forgive him and his grudge lets him pin the blame on Mark when the kid appears to have brought a knife to their field trip. When he and another teacher discover the knife isn't Mark's, Mr. Maxwell is rebuked but not for very long as he too has realized the idiocy of holding in hate against the kid.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One sub-arc on Bones was about Cam getting her identity stolen. She wound up living on a minimal income and faced the possibility that she'd never repair her credit. When they found the woman who'd done it, she turned out to be an old "friend" of Cam's who was jealous of her life and never shows the slightest hint of remorse. Cam is given the option of adding years to the woman's sentence by proving that the harm was done maliciously (targeting her, rather than just taking a convenient identity). Arastoo (who is dating her at this point) acts as if this would somehow make her the bigger monster and send her down a road of hatred and bitterness. She ultimately decides not to pursue the additional charges.
  • The three-part Series 9 finale of Doctor Who has the Doctor as the grudgeholder against Ashildr/Me and Rassilon and the High Council for being responsible for his capture and torture, a plot that also inadvertently killed Clara Oswald. AND the latter party was also partially responsible for the Last Great Time War. Despite these parties' complete unwillingness to apologize or atone for their actions, the Doctor is constantly called out for wanting to see these parties get what's coming to them. When he manages to get back at the latter in "Hell Bent" and if anything is merciful in exiling them to wherever they can find a home, he still gets chewed out for it even when he points out that HE is the one who was tortured ( for four-and-a-half billion years, though admittedly it was ultimately a Self-Inflicted Hell).
  • Hilariously played in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "The Script Formerly Known As...". Will and Hilary beg for Philip's forgiveness for bringing a dismissed juror of his trial to Hilary's talk show. As Philip watches the apology, an old woman comes up to him and yells outs "You should be ashamed of yourself!" and hits him with her purse.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • In Matthew 6:15, Jesus states to his disciples that if a person doesn't forgive the transgressor, then neither will God forgive the person who doesn't forgive, implying that holding a grudge will result in eternal damnation. The justification for this is because God wants His followers to forgive others because He forgave them for their sins.
    • In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35, a servant's master forgives his extremely large debt, but when the servant throws another servant in prison for failing to pay a smaller debt, the master then rescinds his forgiveness and punishes the first servant. The point of the parable is that if the servant cannot show mercy to others, he doesn't deserve any mercy himself. Which suggests that forgiveness is an option for someone who did something comparable to what was done and wishes to be forgiven.
    • The Bible counsels forgiving someone before sundown at the very latest because making people hold grudges is one of the Devil's favorite tactics.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • At the 1995 Royal Rumble, Bam Bam Bigelow shoved Lawrence Taylor, who was sitting at ringside. Bigelow was ordered to apologize to Taylor but refused and instead challenged him to a match, setting up their facing each other at WrestleMania 11.
  • The ECW feud between Raven and Tommy Dreamer centered around the fact Dreamer was a bully when they were children and Raven never got over it. Beulah McGillicutty, another of Dreamer's childhood bully targets, initially sided with Raven but eventually forgave Dreamer, undergoing a Heel–Face Turn in the process.
  • Played straight in Ring of Honor when Tammy Lynn Sytch gave her endorsement to The Lovely Lacey and Daizee Haze only for Lacey to dress her down for making it harder for women to become wrestlers in the past.
  • Sting's Face–Heel Turn in TNA was based on the fact he still begrudged Hulk Hogan for everything he did in WCW, the nWo not the least of which. It didn't really take as a ten-minute baseball bat beating of Rob Van Dam couldn't stop fans from cheering Sting for long, so in the end, he was proven correct with Hogan trying to do the same thing to TNA with Immortal, leading to an automatic Heel–Face Turn.
  • Delirious's failure to turn face after being freed from The Eye Of Tyr in Chikara stemmed from the fact remembered everything he was forced to do under its control and refused to forgive the resident Super Villain UltraMantis Black for using it on him, even after Black freed him from its control.
  • Averted in when Kyle O'Reilly remained a face in ROH despite going Accuser of the Brethren on Austin Aries for deserting ROH and all its associated promotions for TNA, even though fans were happy to see Aries back.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the reasons the Dwarves of Warhammer don't get along with other races is because their grudges are treasured from generation to generation (no matter how minor or long ago), even kept in a Big Book of War that they take to battle. It goes without saying that their attempts to resolve one results in more dead dwarves, meaning more grudges to be settled later on. Humans, who have a much shorter memory, don't understand why they won't drop it (for example, a noble who'd commissioned a castle from them paid three boatloads of gold, and his name went in the book and the castle razed because the sum was three pieces short). It's not only grudges, either; they're just as obsessive if they consider themselves in your debt.

    Video Games 
  • Life Is Strange: Before the Storm reveals that Rachel Amber's father James took her away from her biological mother Sera after he found Sera overdosed or high while baby Rachel was crying. While this is a legitimate reason to not want her to be Rachel's caregiver, he insists on completely cutting her off from Rachel over a decade later, even after Sera has gotten clean, has been voiding his checks to her which he had been paying as bribes to have her stay away from Rachel, and has been trying to send letters to her (which James hides), culminating when it is revealed that James has hired Damon Merrick to intentionally cause Sera to relapse by injecting her with heroin.
  • The Last of Us Part II:
    • Ellie's desire to continue pursuing Abby and her group gets pushback from all of her companions aside from Tommy. Most of the time, this is within reason (such as protesting her going off to search for Abby instead of helping Tommy escape from the WLF). Ultimately, she learns her lesson at a great personal cost when Dina leaves Ellie, taking JJ with her.
    • Abby's pursuit of vengeance tore a rift in her relationship with Owen, and Mel later chews her out about the choices she's made and the consequences thereof.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End: Despite their former partnership, during the climax of the game Rafe goes off on Nate, ranting about how much he despises him and the Drakes. While his target attempts to apologize, Rafe continues rambling, attacking the unarmed Nate with a cutlass.
    Nate: Look, I get it, you don't like me very much—
    Rafe: You know, for all your "greatness", Nate, you have nothing. You are nothing. And I warned you... to get out of my way.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • Hey Arnold!: The infamous episode "Arnold Betrays Iggy" overlaps this trope with Cassandra Truth. Arnold accidentally discovers that Iggy wears bunny pajamas for sleeping and Iggy makes him promise he won't tell anybody. When Sid and Stinky figure it out themselves by pure coincidence, Iggy is convinced that Arnold betrayed him, even when he tries to defend himself. When Arnold gives up on that and tries to apologize through gifts and doing things for him, Iggy refuses to let go of the grudge unless Arnold walks around in bunny pajamas for everyone to see, which he does. Right before, Iggy overhears Sid and Stinky talking about how they figured it out themselves, making him realize too late that Arnold was telling the truth. The roles are now reversed with Iggy being the one desperately trying to apologize, while Arnold (more understandably) ignores him.
  • While Lin from The Legend of Korra is a sympathetic character and a good person, her Fatal Flaw is holding grudges. Her refusal to let bygones be bygones has serious consequences in her life. It’s ruined her relationship with her ex who genuinely tries to be her friend, her sister, and her mom.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squid's Defense", after learning how to defend himself through karate, Squidward goes to beat up a thug that tried to steal his groceries earlier, but finds out that they were going to return them to him. An ashamed SpongeBob and Sandy scold Squidward for using karate for vengeance and not self-defense and take off his karate belt, followed by Squidward being arrested.