Forgiveness Is The Key To Healing
A friend once told me, "A resentment is like my drinking a cup of poison, expecting the person that I resent to die."
Twelve Step program literature addresses resentments and their profound role in a person's relapse, no matter what the addiction might be. The AA book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions boldly states, "It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us." What has always struck me about that statement is that it really doesn't matter who was at fault or responsible for the cause of my feeling hurt. There still exists a problem with me.
In my 30-plus years as a clinician, I have encountered hundreds of cases of client's brokenness. The pain that occurs in addicted families, victims of sexual abuse, divorce, parental abandonment of children, to name a few, lingers within people. Yes, these people were harmed, often deeply and seemingly irreparably, and they were not at fault. They were innocent victims.
Resentment comes from the Latin which means to "re-feel". Anyone who has ever nurtured anger, envy, jealousy, hurt pride, or any type of a grudge knows how debilitating and self-defeating a resentment can be. Some resentments are short-lived and many, tragically, last for decades. One characteristic is that they are spiritual and emotional cancer. They gradually eat away at one's spirit and very being. They are as debilitating and immobilizing as a physical disability.
When I facilitate recovery retreats or stress management work shops, this is always a topic I address. I take the groups through a physical tour of a resentment through one's body, beginning with the head down to the legs and feet. Try it sometime. Just meditate on a person or institution that may have hurt you and see if you don't experience a physical reaction. Nurse it long enough and you might not be able to eat or have a severe headache. Often depression can take hold and one becomes unable to perform daily routine tasks. Resentments are killers!
What can we do about resentments?
Spiritual writers have addressed the need for prayer as essential for healing of the brokenness that results from resentment. The person or institution that has hurt us, it is strongly encouraged, must be prayed for. If we are to be healed, we should pray that that person or institution be given all the good things we ask God for ourselves and our loved ones. Only then can true healing begin.
I have been deeply moved by our Holy Father's reaching out to victims of sexual abuse here in the United States and in Australia. When I first heard of his meeting with the survivors in Washington D.C., I was brought to tears. He took responsibility for our part in causing long-lasting pain in these people's lives and asked for their forgiveness. His humility was indeed Christ-like and a true example of the beginnings of the true healing process.
In the prayer that Jesus taught us, there is a passage that asks God to, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Coincidentally we petition Our Father for this ability at every Eucharist and at the closing of Twelve Step meetings.
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