Monday, September 21, 2015

Exploring Resentment

DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church - Reverend Tom Capo
September 2015 theme: Plumbing the Depths
September 17, 2015

I grew up in an alcoholic home.
My father was a binge drinker.  When I was ten, my father, following a binge, screamed profanity, broke dishes, chairs and yanked the baffled doors off the bar.  My brothers, mother and I didn’t why and we huddled in fear in the back room of our house.  At that moment, I decided I would no longer have any relationship with my father, and did not value anything he said to me or did for me for many years. I did not think I could ever forgive him, and at least a part of me did not want to; I did not feel he deserved any forgiveness.

Resentments over my father’s drinking hurt me for years. 
By holding onto my resentments, my self-esteem was damaged. I was distant from family and friends, and my health suffered. My ability to achieve in school was impaired—I sabotaged my education which almost kept me from graduating. Yet I would not let go of my precious resentments. I felt my father deserved my resentment, because there was no regret or justification for what he did.  
Forgiveness is a choice when another person has injured us. 
When we are injured something inside us is broken.  Resentments are the feelings we develop when we choose to retain the pain that was inflicted on us because we feel the perpetrator deserves it. We may have experienced terrible injustices--wrongs we feel cannot be righted. But we are the ones who suffer, not the person who harmed us.  I heard once that holding onto resentments is like drinking poison and hoping the person we resent will die.  Resentments rarely, if ever, hurt the one we are angry with.  Yet still I did not want to forgive for many years. 

To forgive is to admit that we don’t want to feel the resentment anymore. 
To forgive we must first acknowledge that we want to repair the separation from intimacy, joy, health, and success that resentments can cause.  We want to be free of the pain.  We come to understand that forgiveness does not justify the harm done to us.  We forgive in order to heal.  
Forgiveness is difficult.
To forgive was to see my father as a person.  I was hesitant.  That meant I had to be willing to care about him as a person.  I could no longer treat him as the evil object I had believed him to be for so many years.

Forgiveness may be painful. We must forgive, yet remember.  To remember helps set boundaries in relationships to protect ourselves. Forgiveness may lead to mutual respect, but we might set ourselves up for disappointment if we believe that our relationships with people that have hurt us will be transformed if we forgive them.  

Forgiveness is an ongoing process.
After doing forgiveness work, I thought I was finished.  However, forgiveness is not like that.  I thought I had forgiven my father, yet, years later, still had no positive memories of him.  I now realize that my pain had covered up all the positive feelings and memories that I had about my father.  This began a new stage of forgiveness work for me.

Today, the benefits of forgiveness continue to materialize in my life.  I have gained wisdom from working through my resentments.  I have a greater understanding of others and better understand the pain they experience. 

This process of emotional and spiritual growth cannot be done quickly.  We must give ourselves the time we need to understand ourselves, to identify our pain and resentments, and to begin the process of forgiveness.  Forgiveness deepens our life-long process of emotional and spiritual growth.  In giving up pain, injury, sadness, hatred, and resentments, we make room to receive wisdom, joy, love, and life. 

Blessings, Rev. Tom

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