“When you forgive, you in no way change the past — but you sure do change the future.” — Bernard Meltzer
If you’re honest, don’t you carry a grudge towards someone or something? Don’t we all?
A broken heart – impossible boss – a belief that we have been treated unfairly?
I know I do; but I rarely stop to think how these resentments are really affecting me.
Like pesky weeds in our gardens, resentments multiply, take over and ultimately suffocate all the flowers. Sometimes they can be a big, blow-the-lid-off-the-container kind of resentment, and other times they are a small, sweep-them-under-the-rug kind of feeling. But the problem is that even if we sweep them under the rug, like Captain Jack Sparrow, on a rainy day they pop up, ready to strike. Surprise! And no one likes unpleasant surprises, right?
So, let’s take a look at why we need to let go of resentments and weed our gardens of life.
1. Resentments turn into anger
Anger is an ugly, clenched-fist, red-faced place, you don’t want to be.
During the stage of retaliation, much like the Hulk, as much as you try to resist the urge to slam your opponent floor to ceiling, anger can make you feel like you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and unstoppable, powerful emotion.
You might catch yourself saying, “I wasn’t in my right mind,” and this is a dangerous place for any of us to be.
The truth is anger is not caused by outer circumstances, people or things. Anger is a state of mind, and therefore only you can make yourself angry. You have the power to control your state of mind.
2. Resentments are bad for the body
Resentments can cause the following:
- Headaches and chronic pain
- Insomnia and a higher tendency for alcohol and drug abuse
- High blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke
- Skin problems
3. Resentments are bad for the mind
The effects aren’t just limited to the physical: letting go of old grudges reduces levels of depression and anxiety.
Holding onto resentments agitates your mind; centered on yourself only you retell, refuel and exaggerate the situation. During this agitated state it is impossible to enjoy life.
Over-thinking manifests into a whole heap of problems such as unhealthy habits and powerlessness against the devastating effects of poor mental health.
Forgiveness will bring you peace of mind.
4. Resentments ruin relationships
Resentments left unattended can lead to bottled emotions and unhealthy outbursts; including hurting loved ones with physical and/or verbal abuse and isolating yourself from friends and family. It can lead to venting at innocent parties such as your children; spouse or pet and this can lead to low self-esteem and manipulation in our relationships.
Remember, no one is perfect. We’re going to hurt other people and other people are going to hurt us: intentionally and unintentionally. Do you want to become a bitter, resentful, unpleasant person? Or do you want to be a breath of fresh air? Letting go of resentments will renew your relationships.
5. Resentments subdue your instincts
We are all born with instincts to help us survive; animals know when to run from predators, baby kittens know how to nuzzle into their mothers, and we know when something just feels ‘off’.
The problem with resentments is all the unhealthy thinking, replaying and blaming. These states of mind subdue the otherwise beeping red alarm that tells us when something is wrong. Instead of tuning into our natural feelings, we are too busy thinking. We think, and then we think, and then we think some more.
We are always thinking! Stop all the chatter and tune in to your inner compass, follow north, it won’t lead you astray.
6. Resentments develop ignorance
Resentment arises from ignorance and from an unjustifiable sense of entitlement.
- I have been treated unfairly.
- I can’t believe he would say that to me.
- My husband never pays any attention to me.
- Why would she get the promotion over me, I am a much better candidate.
- It is unfair that my loved one was taken from me too soon.
And on and on.
If you check, any resentment is always in precious defence of the self.
Ignorance makes it impossible for us to see things clearly. Ignorance is tuning out of reality.
Oftentimes, we are unaware that we are unaware. We project our assumptions, beliefs, hopes and fears and fuse them with reality. But it’s not reality, it is simply the way we have viewed a situation through our lens, and our lens can be discoloured.
With a mindfulness practice we can become more and more open to what is and we can accept what has happened without blame and victimizing. Blaming actually catapults us into more suffering.
7. Forgiveness will enhance your life
The recognition that you can choose emotional well-being even when things don’t turn out the way you want, will change you, in spirit, mind and body. Dwelling on past injustices has no effect on the present other than causing you and your loved ones pain. Being angry will not bring back a lost loved one or mend your broken heart.
This may be difficult but you can still wish someone happiness, even if they hurt you.
Forgiveness can change your life. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten the past. It doesn’t mean you have to keep someone in your life. It just means that you have decided to move on and that you are ready to be happy.
Quick forgiveness tips:
Explore your emotions.
Seek professional help.
Forgiving is not forgetting.
Think about your family.
Rely on facts.
Write down three good things that came from the negative situation.
Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance. Let it go.
Live in the moment.
Take up a meditation practice.
Peaceful mind, peaceful life. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want — it can be really tough. Sometimes we will be caught in violent storms, and these resentments will make us seasick. Accept the storm and you will find a life boat amidst even the strongest waves.
Ask yourself honestly, “When was the last time I truly felt overwhelmed with happiness, freedom, and gratitude?” If you can’t remember, then you may be holding onto resentments.
Featured photo credit: Only Sequel via Flickr