Forgiveness cures resentment

Published 4:37 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2023

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By Alan Neale

For a little while, around 1986, I taught in a private school in Eastbourne, East Sussex in England. As it was a private school, there was some laxity about my lack of professional teaching qualifications. I was charged to teach these young folk English and Religious Education. I assured myself by arguing I could speak and read English and I surely, after years of Bible Study and an Oxford Degree, knew a little about Religious Education.

I realize now that the year or so spent in that school was as much a learning experience for me as it was, I hope, for the young souls I tried to teach.

Regularly, towards the end of each lesson, I would set homework or “prep” for the evening. Oh so often the cry would arise, “But, sir, that’s not fair”. To which my standard response was, I am embarrassed to admit, “Boys, life is not fair”.

Maybe, in an unplanned and happenstance manner, the boys were being prepared for lives in which, from time to time, they would be treated unfairly. It would be their choice whether, whenever this happened, to collapse with anger and resentment or have the courage to carry on regardless.

Resentment is often defined as anger and indignation experienced as a result of unfair treatment; it is, sadly, a fairly common emotion. Many times, both personally and professionally, I have talked with those whose lives are being controlled, paralyzed, damaged by resentment. How strange it is to hear the phrase “he/she nursed resentment” – as if resentment is a precious thing of which we should take great and loving care!

Malachy McCourt once said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Grudges do no good whatsoever and they benefit no one, neither in our business lives nor our personal lives, in church or in family.

Amy Rees Anderson wrote, “Jumping to conclusions and holding a grudge is literally like locking yourself in prison for a crime you think someone else committed, and doing it before you have even investigated to know if a crime actually took place or not – which would be crazy to do, right?!”

The way forward for those suffering from the curse of resentment is to seek truth and to grant forgiveness, letting go. Sometimes, though not always, asking what is true about our resentments will show us we jumped to conclusions and misjudged intentions – sometimes it really is not “all about me”.

Years ago, I talked with a sponsor about the difficulty I was having letting go of a resentment. He suggested I pray and pray specifically, “O Lord, bless him/her (the one against whom I had a resentment) and change me”. “O Lord, bless him/her; and change me.” Sometimes I have prayed that prayer for two years or more but, eventually, a psychic change has occurred and I am set free. At the moment, I have been saying that prayer about one person for over two years… I am still waiting for freedom.

I regularly take heart when I hear the plaintive plea from Jesus on the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. I wonder… at that moment when all his resources were at a minimum, at least he pleaded with the Father to forgive. I think that is what I will do, when I find it difficult to forgive, I will ask the Father, for the moment, to forgive and hope I will, eventually, get in line.

I read this morning, “All it takes is willingness to forgive: God will do the rest”.

Regularly on Tuesdays at Zion Church at 5:30pm, we have Prayers for Healing – sometimes our healing is not so much physical as relational, sometimes our physical healing is contained by our lack of forgiveness.

Hebrews 12:15 “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent” (Message Translation). I am no gardener but this is know – best not let the weeds take deep root and spread.

Alan Neale is the Rector at Zion Episcopal Church in Washington.