Antidote for Bitterness, Retaliation, and Resentment
Each of us has been hurt by another human being. Sometimes the pain of an offense or betrayal is overwhelming. Is there a healthy way to deal with these kinds of situations? Our natural response is to recoil from the hurt or to strike back in like manner. If the hurt is deep, the process of letting go will take longer, sometimes years. Some people never let go of their seething rage and resentment for a person or persons who have hurt them. There is a certain satisfaction in hating another individual. It feels like they deserve whatever you can dish out to them. It seems like it is our right to pour forth our vengeance upon them, if not in person, at least in our mind. But the consequences are not hurting them as much as it is hurting us. The poison meant for them is poisoning us. I think we all have met certain people that are so bitter and resentful that nobody wants to be around them. They are lonely people; those who can not let go and can not forgive.
A very wise person has declared that, “At the epicenter of all healing is forgiveness”. Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook so they can hurt you again and again. You must set up personal boundaries to protect yourself from future offenses. (See the page on setting boundaries.) It is not saying that what they did to you did not matter or did not have an impact on you. It is not to minimize or ignore the offense. Forgiveness is actually a gift to yourself. It is the process to bring internal healing to your wound or scar. It is a personal decision to release the offender of the indebtedness owed to you. That brings to mind the old saying, “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. When we choose to not forgive, to hold a grudge, we are forgetting that we too have hurt others. Believers who have been forgiven all of their offenses have the perfect model, to do unto others as God has done for you. God calls us to forgive those who trespass against us. Although, sometimes this feels like too much to ask of us, He will empower you to do what He wants you to do. There is a very real reward here on earth, for those who forgive. And that is healing. As I see it, our body can not contain bitterness, resentment and rage toward another human being and experience healing too. Our vessel cannot contain both. When we release the bitterness, then and only then, can the healing process begin.
People who hold grudges, who would never let go of an offense are living examples of people who have not experienced healing. They become cripples for life. In your mind you must take your hands off of the neck of the offender. Give up the need to be paid back for what you have lost. Stop expecting an apology or explanation. It probably will never come. And if it does, it will not seem sufficient for all the suffering you have had to experience. Offer the gift of forgiveness to yourself! “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” If payback is due your offender, He can and will do a much better job than you could ever do! Let go and let God.
Bitterness comes from the mental rehearsing and remembering insults, hurts, injustices, rejection and pain from others. That can turn into hatred when we are unwilling to let go, to dismiss or to forgive the other party. If we could forgive the person who offended us, we would no longer be so angry or stressed out.
Forgiveness is NOT forgetting or promising to forget. You will never forget being hurt. Forgiveness is NOT promising to believe that the other person was not guilty or responsible for what they did.
Forgiveness is NOT praising or rewarding the other person.
Forgiveness is NOT approval of what has been done. You are not conceding that the wrong committed is viewed as anything less serious than before.
Forgiveness is NOT permission to repeat the offense. It doesn’t mean that your values and beliefs have changed.
Forgiveness is your decision to no longer to hate the offender. It is letting go of your vengeful thoughts, your venom, and your hatred in an attempt to heal yourself. It is a gift to yourself!
There is research evidence that the more you can accept others, the more you like yourself. And likewise, the more you hold grudges towards others and dislike others, the less you like yourself. Those people who live in bitterness really do not like themselves very much.
Forgiveness From Death Row
is a perfect example of this.
You need to be sure that you are ready to forgive. You are not ready to forgive if you are still boiling inside. Can you see a partial justification for what was done to you? Can you see the other person’s side of the situation? If you can not, you are not ready to forgive! If you are ready to get your bad feelings off your chest and get rid of your bitterness and resentment toward the other person, then proceed. First, try to understand the circumstances, the thinking the motives and the history of the person who hurt you. Try to understand their experiences or their upbringing or their psychological problems that would explain but not excuse the resented behavior. Remember that you yourself have some of those issues too. Acknowledge your own part in the resented behavior. Acknowledge that you have unknowingly or knowingly hurt others. Think about treating the person with grace as you would want to be treated if the situation was reversed. Choose a notable day to let go and forgive that person. Choose a physical representation of that person, like a picture or drawing, to send away or burn or tear up into pieces. Choose some way of letting go of the resentment. Then each time you remember the offense, remember that you have already let go of it, and forgive again. Each time the thought of the offense enters your mind, send it away with forgiveness. Don’t allow your mind to entertain vengeful thoughts any more. In time the pain of the offense will subside. You will eventually be able to talk about it without getting upset or angry. After you forgive, there is room within you to receive healing power, not until.