How do I forgive, let go of resentment?
I was talking to a man here on retreat and he was dealing with a great deal of anger in his life. His anger was understandable. In fact there would have been something wrong with him if he said he was not angry over the injustice that was done to him. As we were talking, he brought up how resentment had such a hold on him and he could not let it go. So he asked me how to do it.
These questions always make me uneasy, since I know from experience that certain techniques simply don’t work when it comes to dealing with deep emotional pain and suffering. They can help of course temporarily, but the actual healing needs to come from a deeper place depending on something else entirely.
So when I tried to respond to this question, I had to go within in order to connect with my own struggles with resentment. Most likely it is a very common situation for people and it can lead in worst case scenarios to ruin for all involved. I don’t think this kind of inner war should be minimized in anyway. Resentment is painful to experience, but it is also addictive and hard to let go of. Thoughts of revenge can give one a feeling of superiority and innocence that is probably unwarranted. Just as I struggle with resentment, so others may have resentment towards me as well……what a dance it is!
In my own life, I have found that it is the desire to forgive and to let go of resentment that is the seed that is planted by grace. I also believe that to simply want to let go of this kind of deep inner suffering, is a positive response to graces gentle plodding in our souls.
There are those who cling to their resentments, love them actually and in that they pay a heavy price.
The seed planted in our hearts is I believe the life of the Eternal One, which starts as a weak and slow growing relationship. As we move on this path, perhaps praying the best way we know how. Or try to find ways to let go of what causes us pain and suffering. This life of God grows and slowly draws us to the point where our desire to forgive and let go of resentment, is healed by this larger life that grace brings to those who seek it.
To seek revenge is an instinctive response, it is just there, its purpose is to protect us, but it is often destructive, because it is often an illusion, this need to get back at those who hurt us. As if getting back at someone will change anything in a significant manner. Most of the time it will only make things worse, complicating an already convoluted situation into turning even more into itself, leading to relationships that only grow in hatred.
The life that God plants in our hearts grows according to its own laws. We prepare the ground through self knowledge and self-responsibility, water it through prayer, and receive the harvest through patient endurance. We sin when we seek to escape pain that can’t be expunged accept though the allowing of love and forgiveness to grow. Pain and suffering can be healing if it leads us to the understanding of our need for grace. If not, then the pain only gets worse and deepens as our life moves forward. I guess this can be seen in how the world works….not very well it would seem. An eye for an eye may have been an improvement in the far past, but now it only gets worse with each new cycle. I guess what is going on between Israel and the Palestinians shows us this reality. Our world around us only mirrors what is in our souls. Our problems don’t just drop from the sky unannounced; no, they flow from our inner selves. It does no good to point fingers. For I believe that we all are part of the problem. Seeking to blame only compounds the dire situation in the world today.
The dance of resentment
Grab your partner and around we go
griping tightly with grim intent,
snarling and glaring as we twirl
in an endless cycle of pain and suffering.
Blood drops from our enemy and we smile,
then groan when wounded and bleed ourselves,
our anger and pain increasing with each new round
for there seems to be no end to the dance.
Well maybe until one dies,
or both, then there is peace for a time,
but the sword and spear taken up again
by tribe, family and friends,
so the dance begins again,
or perhaps it never ended.