an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
When I began to write this last week I thought back to something that was hard for me. I was looking for something that I had felt resentment toward. Yup that’s easy.
I grew up without my father.
See easy pickins.
If you’re reading this, stick with me…I promise not to drain you with this all too common situation.
What causes resentment?
When we’re young we don’t start out resenting anyone. Right? But then… people come along or they don’t come along, as in my case. Growing up without a parent is a bad feeling that causes pain and confusion. You wonder why someone doesn’t love you..someone who should. Later those hurt feelings turn into anger and resentment or even feelings of worthlessness. (this is the end of the sappy stuff)
Oddly enough, you may only grapple with these feelings, in this one area of life. Outside of this situation, you may be naturally confident, cheerful and loving. You’re not 100% damaged goods.
The more I began to sit back and think about this, I realized that those feelings travel within many other relationships.
How many married people feel that their mate was a completely different person when they were dating? Were they really? When serious problems arise, the problems begin to define their entire marriage. Nothing is good anymore. You hate that it got this way and if resentment sets in..sooner or late you hate your mate. It’s sad but true.
In the family, the feeling is no different. Is there someone in your family that just gets under your skin? They always cause drama or worse yet, trouble? It may be your sibling, uncle or aunt JimBob, a cousin, a brother-in-law’s sister twice removed, WHOEVER it is when you see them coming you feel dread and physically, you feel your body change. Stress ugh!
Have you ever wished that the situation would change? But to no avail. It stays the same, every single time.
You may be that little child waiting and waiting for a person who never shows up. Perhaps your parent was there but wasn’t the type of person you needed due to addiction or abuse. Why couldn’t they just change you wondered?
The problem of letting resentment into marriage is that you can begin to resent everything about your mate. That one aspect soon takes over everything. It‘s insidious. You start off resenting the way she does thing #1 and then it dominoes into hating the way she acts all of the time, to the way she looks at you, even how she chews.”Look at her over there chewing like a cow. I hate the way she breathes.” It escalates so quickly. That is why nipping YOUR feelings in the bud is important.
Remember you can almost NEVER help someone change with resentment. It clouds your feelings and judgment. Which affect your actions.
What if resentment with your family has gotten you to the point where you feel that you must avoid the person at all cost, even the thought of them makes you feel stressed? You feel “I’m good just as long as I don’t see them or interact with them.”
An illustration y’all…
James and Jonathan are identical twins. (No, not the Property Brothers.) Being naturally athletic, they are always engaged in some type of physical activity. The only difference between them is their taste buds. James loves to eat a healthy diet. Jon, on the other hand, will eat a Twinkie and Redbull for breakfast. Vegetables ugh! Due to their active lifestyles, you can’t tell by looking at them that one eats junk while the other eats healthy. In their mid 30’s an annual exam revealed that Jonathan wasn’t as well as he thought. He has high cholesterol, is prediabetic and his kidneys have suffered some damage from all of that soda. His doctor says that he is at high risk for heart attack. This comes as a surprise to Jonathan. He is athletic and never gets sick. Overall he feels great.
What is the point, Kash?
Sometimes in life, we don’t feel the need to forgive. It feels just fine to let things be the way they are. This is when we have to trust a time-tested rule, that forgiveness works and produces the best results.
So what about Jon. Should he ignore the advice of his doctor, after all, he feels fine? Changing the way he eats is going to be stressful. Everyone hates stress. Besides change feels unfamiliar and at times downright uncomfortable.
Jon decides that it’s not enough to feel good, he wants to really be good. He takes on this challenge and on the other side comes out feeling better than he did. The truth is, feeling better helped him to see that in the past he didn’t feel as good as he once thought he did. He realized that only AFTER he changed and experienced the difference.
What happens when you try it?
It’s the same with forgiveness. When we let go of resentment, we feel better. It’s like when you let your coworker borrow a few dollars for a cup of coffee and he swears he’ll pay you back. He never does, so at first, you wonder, was he hustling me? As the days go by you realize this guy seriously forgot. Finally, you think to yourself it was only a few bucks, and you let it go.
Letting it go doesn’t mean that you forgot. You use the experience for future reference. From it, you decide one of two things, either to never let him borrow money from you again, or you set a limit. You limit the money you’ll spend on him or give him. When you buy him coffee or lunch, in your heart you never expect him to pay it back.
When you forgive you do the same. You may hope, but you no longer expect the other person to change.
In a sense, they no longer have this power over you.
In most cases, we can even step back and wonder why a person is how they are? Many bad habits are traced to unhealthy associations or the past.
Think about yourself. Do you have habits and traits that you struggle with changing? We all do. Keeping this perspective reminds us that others have the same struggle. Sometimes it’s even worse for others.
What helps you to change? Does an angry “You NEVER or You ALWAYS do this or that help? Most likely not. In fact, it’s easier for us to accept something is wrong when someone lovingly points it out. It is because you trust that they are not saying it to hurt you.
Timing is important too. Do you like when someone starts in on you when you first enter a situation? Maybe when you just had a long day and all you can think about is relaxing for a bit. Timing in life has an effect as well. People change when they can or are ready and not when we want.
Considering these factors helps us to not only forgive but approach the person as, “a person” and not just a problem that needs solving now.
Once you forgive don’t forget that you forgave. You’ve already decided. Resist the urge to keep bringing up the hurt. If it’s necessary, then address the actual problem at hand without attacking the other person’s entire character.
Back to the sappy stuff…
So what about my situation at the outset? Years ago I heard a saying “Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” I finally got how that was true. In the case of my father, I would see him, and go from feeling like the naturally happy person that I am, to feeling angry and hurt. What in the world???? That wasn’t right or even fair to me.
I sat back and thought about that one day. I realized at this point I may never understand why things were how they were. But I was letting this ruin who I am, who I choose to be.
So I stopped.
I decided that from that point on, whenever I would see him that I was going to just be nice and treat him like a person. It didn’t mean that all of my feelings disappeared. Honestly, I would walk away from our interactions feeling emotionally depleted for a few days. Somehow, I knew that the more I was kind to him, the better each time would get. He could be however he wanted. I became fine with that.
Oddly enough I began writing this article on Thursday with forgiveness as the subject. Friday afternoon my father called me with a family emergency. Sunday without my asking him, and out of the blue (for me) he offered me both an apology and a story behind those questions I had growing up. It was a huge bonus in life because not everyone gets to ever have that happen. It was really nice. Truthfully, the decision I made years ago was the best one. It meant that at a moment like that, I could sit back and just listen without dealing with whether or not I would choose to forgive him. That was out of the way. It also meant that if I never got that from him that I was okay too.
So then who can you forgive this week? How will it change the course of your life? Remember: to forgive or to not forgive…that choice is up to you.
What do you think, what has been your experience?
Note to self: Get some breakfast, you’re starving!