In another blog, I discussed the need to move beyond mere forgiveness—which is often an act of arrogance—to a condition of complete acceptance and love toward others. But for a moment let’s go in the other direction and talk about what happens when we don’t even achieve forgiveness—where we nurse resentment toward someone who has caused us pain.
When Larry and Jane got married years ago, neither of them had a shred of Real Love between them. Neither had been unconditionally loved by a parent or anybody else, so although they enjoyed the usual excitement of falling in love early on, the “high” quickly wore off, and they were left with disappointment, recriminations, unkind words, and anger.
- They both agreed to work on their personal issues and on their marriage, and Larry seemed to be making genuine progress. But Jane hung on tenaciously to her resentment for every wisp of offense, both real and imagined, that Larry had ever caused:
- She clearly explained how Larry had hurt her in ways far deeper and more painful than she had ever hurt him. (This is a common technique used by victims who want to justify their continued resentment.)
- Jane said, “He just hasn’t said he’s sorry for everything he did.” (This is victim code for, “I want him to suffer and bleed for all the pain he caused me.”)“I would never do the things to him,” she said, “that he did to me. Never.” (Translation? “We had different personalities and experiences, so the ways we hurt each other were different. But what HE did was MUCH WORSE than anything I did?” Why worse? Simply to justify her resentment of his behavior.
- “I could never forgive someone,” she said, “for doing what he did.”
Jane nursed her resentment like a baby sucking from a bottle, and it filled her up with a poison that destroyed her from within. Her anger consumed her, so that a reasonable conversation between the two of them became impossible, and Larry finally elected to move out of the house. Of course that decision became yet another justification for her resentment: “When we got married, he promised he’d never leave me. But he did. He broke his promise. I would never have done that to him.”
Years later Larry was peaceful and happy. He had remarried and was enjoying a fulfilling family life. Jane was empty and bitter, and her children mostly avoided her because she was such an emotional black hole.
When we choose not to forgive, we choose to nourish a cancer within us. We actually entertain a fantasy that with our anger we can injure our imagined perpetrator, but the only person who dies from this cancer is us.
Learn more about eliminating your anger!