Have any of your personal relationships been damaged? Did something happen between you and someone close to you? What's the current state of that relationship? Are you waiting for that person to come and make things right with you? Are you going to remain resentful and angry until that person does? This is not uncommon and unfortunately that day may never arrive.
So what do we do?
Well, we can allow our ego to take the lead and believe that we are special and therefore, nothing is required on our part. Most likely, the other party will believe the same thing. Both parties will ignore one another until enough time has passed and it's no longer something that needs to be discussed. We bury the issue deep down somewhere inside us where it belongs never to be spoken about again!
Unless, of course, the other party approaches us to admit how wrong THEY were!
When we consider the breakdown of the word "resent", "re" means (again) and "sent" means (feel or sense). To experience a resentment is to relive an offense that injured us in the past. In remaining resentful, I am re-experiencing or re-feeling previous pain or trauma that already happened! By choosing to not forgive someone, I am choosing to continuously experience pain from my past. Another way I have heard this shared is, "I will drink poison and think it is going to hurt the other person involved". I am poisoning myself which will cause zero harm to the person with whom I am resentful.
To be clear, to forgive someone does not mean to forget what they did which is usually why it is hard for people to forgive. They believe by forgiving, they are dismissing and devaluing the harm caused by the other person which the ego will not allow. According to Saul McLeod, in his article, "Freuds theory of personality: id, ego, and superego", he states, "The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or the id." If we believe that in forgiving someone for their wrong doing, we are communicating it's okay for them to do it again, this would expose us to being harmed again by this person. The ego will not want to cause itself harm and so the idea of forgiveness is rejected.
But what if we could shift our perspective about forgiveness? What if we were able to communicate to our ego that by forgiving, we were letting go of the pain and trauma that was caused. Well, according to McLeod's statement above about the ego, this would be in alignment as the ego wants satisfaction without causing harm to itself. So, with a perspective shift about forgiveness, I can condition my ego that by forgiving I am letting go of pain and trauma which will satisfy the ego without causing harm to itself. In letting go of resentment I can experience increased freedom and mental health.
According to the University of New Hampshire's Psychological & Counseling Services about Resentment and forgiveness, here are some reasons why people might want to harbor resentments.
It gives the illusion of power and control
It provides energy and impetus to get things done
It is a way to avoid uncomfortable communication
It seems to offer protection from vulnerability, a way to feel safe
It allows a person to feel "right"
It may provoke guilt in others
It is a way to avoid the feelings under the anger
It is a way to continue to hold onto a relationship that might otherwise end
It allows a person to avoid responsibility and stay in the role of victim.
What is forgiveness?
The art of releasing resentment
A shift of perception
An internal process that can occur with or without anyone else's knowledge or partipation
A decision to see beyond the reactive judgements of your ego
Letting go of the idea that you could have had a different past
Remembering that all of us are human; we are imperfect, prone to mistakes
And lastly, forgiveness is not
Condoning or excusing hurtful or insensitive behavior
Suppressing anger and acting as if everything is fine
Judging or assuming an attitude of superiority or self-righteousness
Forgetting or denying hurtful or insensitive behavior
The process of forgiveness begins with being open to forgiving. It does not need to be an all or nothing ordeal either, nor is it simply an apology. An apology in the absence of true repentance which is a change of heart and mind is meaningless. If I don't care to change my behavior, I will most likely repeat the same behavior. On the other hand, by examining each individual experience, I can process the emotion involved and consider why that came up for me. True forgiveness can lead to a sense of serenity and freedom from self and ego by addressing one resentment at a time.
Let's face it, to forgive is actually harder than to remain resentful. It's logical to choose the easier path in front of us when we can control it. Let's find a magic pill instead of exercising and prioritizing sleep. Let's take the elevator instead of walking up the stairs. But what if we chose the harder path? What would be the outcome?
In the poem, "The Road Not Taken", by Robert Frost, he says,
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
I would love to hear about a time where you were able to forgive someone and what the outcome was. Whether a relationship was restored or you were able to experience a sense of freedom as a result.