24th Sunday Ordinary Time – Forgiveness & Resentments…

Resentment - MandelaI’m learning so much these days.  And, as you probably know, learning is humiliating… I’m learning about forgiving/letting go of resentments.  Ouch.  So, what the heck is ‘resentment’?

It comes from Latin re-sentire into Old and Middle French into English – “to re-feel or feel again.” The Oxford English Dictionary gives its first definition as:

Sense of grievance; an indignant sense of injury or insult received or perceived; (a feeling of) ill will, bitterness, or anger against a person or thing; the manifestation of such feeling.

It looks like this: You do something to me I don’t like.  Perhaps a clash of wills, an insult, whatever.  And I respond either in kind or by retreating.  At this point, it’s an injury or an insult.

Re-sentire means I later replay the incident in my mind and feel it in my body and savor the emotions of being hurt often in conjunction with what I will do to you next time…  The key is that, as I continue to replay the scene in my mind over time, you bear more and more of the fault and I, as they say, become gradually as ‘pure as the driven snow.’  It soon appears it wasn’t my fault at all and I can justify my anger at you, plot vengeance, and massage this resentment for a long time.

Replaying the scene over and over gives me a sense of potential superiority and power over you on that great day I wreak vengeance.

And, the key is this: I never have to look at what I did.  It’s all your fault.  That’s patently obvious.  So, why would I ever have to face my part?  Why would I want to leave the “valley of darkness” in which I see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil about me?  Blindness is bliss!

Forgiveness here means several things:

  • Anger and resentment allow me to inflate my small creaturely self to attack you as a threat to my security, ambition, reputation, self-esteem or self-will.  Am I willing to account for the fear that drives me?  As I let go of fear, so can I let go of resentments and forgive you.
  • Angry inflation and nursing grudges keep me from noticing my wounds that drive me to lash out.  I make others pay the price for my blindness.  As I bring all this into the Light, I can learn to deal with my pain.
  • Angry inflation and nursing grudges keep me from seeing how I make you pay the price for my own fear, emptiness, unworthiness, inadequacy, and loneliness.  As I to recognize the effects of my anger and resentments on others, I can begin to seek their forgiveness.
  • Angry inflation and nursing grudges keep me from taking the woundedness of others in account.  As I see humans as precious and wounded persons, I can discover a union with them I could never have seen before. 
  • Forgiveness moves each toward compassion & reconciliation.  In theory.  And sometimes in real life.

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