Posted: March 2, 2015 by Rob Voyle
Resentment is something we do to ourselves
in the darkness of what others have done to us.
Have you ever tried to forgive and the resentment kept coming back?
Or the anger was so overwhelming that you didn't even want to try?
And yet you would like to be free of the resentment?
From my experience there are two reasons people don't forgive and free themselves from the burden of their resentment:
1: They don't know how.
Too often we tell people they "need to forgive",
but we never teach them how.
2: Some part of them objects to forgiving.
Such as: "if I forgive him he will do it again."
In this newsletter I will teach you how to forgive and in Part II I will teach you how to resolve the objections to forgiving.
How to Forgive
Change your focus and give up trying to forgive.
You don't need to struggle to forgive. If you stopped trying to forgive and became aware that you were one with all the love in the universe you could not not forgive, and there wouldn't be anything to do because it would already be done.
Remember this is about forgiveness, which is how you resolve your past. It is not about reconciliation which is an agreement between two people about how they will interact in the future. While we may long for the day when all are reconciled, in this temporal world that may be impossible. It would be foolhardy to be reconciled to and trust people who have demonstrated that they are untrustworthy, and continue to behave in untrustworthy ways.
Imagine yourself in the light of all that love. A light so bright that even your own resentment and what the person did has not been able to overcome it...
Imagine the other person somewhere in that light, maybe some distance away so you still feel safe...
Be aware of what demand you are making today about what the person did yesterday. This is how we resent, we make a demand that yesterday something would have been different. The demands are often expressed as "he should have" or "she shouldn't have." The demands are also often very simple such as: "He should have been kind," or "reasonable," or "fair" or "honest," "not so stupid," etc.
Acknowledge that while they should or shouldn't have done it that they did do it. Demanding that they would have been different in the past doesn't change the past it just makes us miserable.
Convert the demand into a preference. In your imagination look at the person in the light and tell them that you would have preferred that they behave differently (being specific about your preference.
Reflect on your preference, if necessary convert it into positive statement that you value. For example: if your preference is that they wouldn't have been mean then turn that into a positive preference of kindness. Now ask yourself if want to keep that preference in the future. If your answer is "yes, this is a value you want in the future," then take a moment and practice sharing that value with others (not necessarily with the person who hurt you).
Release the person from your preference and surrender them completely into the light. Stop praying for them, wanting for them, stop doing anything that you would hope would change them, simply behold them in the Light. Their life is now between them and the Light and you don't have to do anything. (In most resentment situations our prayers and hopes for others are for our benefit. We pray that they will be nice so we can live in peace. That kind of praying is a great way to stay miserable. Simply leave them in the Light.)
Turn your attention from the other to yourself and behold yourself in the Light and wonder how that Light will shine through you today.
A couple of things:
Don't talk to or communicate about the experience with the person you are forgiving. Forgiveness is about your internal experience that is totally independent of the other person. Typically when we want to talk about it with the person we are wanting them to acknowledge what they have done, which they are not likely to do, which will continue to aggravate the resentment.
If the above didn't work read Part II dealing with objections.
With Lots of Love and Forgiveness this Lent
The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.
Rob's Approach to Training