Anger / Resentment / Forgiveness

I would like to share with you a few paragraphs from the book that Sanan and I are reading, The Spirituality of Imperfection….

The memory of things past is indeed a worm that does not die. Whether it continues to grow by gnawing away at our hearts or is metamorphosed into a brightly colored winged creature depends…on whether we can find a forgiveness we cannot bestow on ourselves.  — Dominic Maruca

A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the ordeal with him.
“Have you forgiven the Nazis?” he asked his friend.
“Well, I haven’t. I’m still consumed with hatred for them.”
“In that case,” said his friend gently, ” they still have you in prison.”

“The book Alcoholics Anonymous makes an astounding statement: ‘Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.’ ‘Surely,’ the casual reader thinks, ‘that must be a mistake: surely it is alcohol that destroys alcoholics.”

Resentment is the poison of the spiritual life. The word means, literally, ‘feeling again,’ in the sense of ‘feeling backward’: the emphasis on clinging to the past, a harping on it that becomes mired in it. Resentment goes over and over an old injury:  revisiting the hurt, the powerlessness, the rage, the fear, the feeling of being wronged. Scraping the scab off the wound, resentment relishes anew its pain; it is the particular kind of memory that reinforces the vision of self-as-victim. This vision is the antithesis of spirituality, for spirituality begins with the recognition of our own imperfection. Focusing on the past faults and failings of others blinds us to the reality of our own present defects and shortcomings.”

“Anger can be an important part of the process, the journey, that is the construction and discovery of our spiritual home. But resentment has the capacity to stop that process, to abort that journey. The anger that metamorphoses into resentment isolates us, creating the illusion that the world has stopped in its tracks and has come to focus entirely upon our hurts, our desires, our victimhood.”

“For the opposite of ‘resentment is forgiveness, recognized by centuries of spiritual thinkers as “the endpoint of human life.’ Forgiveness is ‘given’ and not only in English; the French say ‘par-donner,’ the Spanish ‘per-donar.’ That is because, in the words of D. M. Dooling, a student of mythic spirituality:  ‘Forgiveness belongs to the divine. It is God’s act:  something other, something that is not ours; and unless we can acknowledge this, the word is only ‘a noise we make with our mouths.'”

“Forgiveness is not ours to give, but ours to receive. We cannot create it; we can be certain only that it is beyond us, in the sense of beyond our control, beyond our ability to will it into existence.”

“The research verifies that forgiveness is spiritual:  it is one of those realities that cannot be ‘willed,’ that becomes more impossible the harder one tries to will it. Forgiveness, in fact, becomes possible only when will is replace by willingness; it results less from effort than from openness.”

When some hurting person approaches an A.A. sponsor or friend to complain of being victimized or to moan that he cannot get rid of a resentment because he feels ‘unable to forgive,’ the usual advice’judiciously offered, runs: ‘Well, I’d say, Pray for the son of a bitch!’

“The ‘prayer’ that most usually works is the only prayer often possible: ‘God, please give the s.o.b. what he deserves!’ And so long as one does not presume to suggest’ what he deserves, amazingly, it works. The surrender of the claim to control, implicit in all real prayer, is of course one part of what is going on here…”

“…the experience of being able to forgive was preceded by some experience of being forgiven. Our need for forgiveness is thus profound, for it is the experience of being forgiven that pulls us out of the stagnating mire of a self-centered focus on our own pain and pushes us back into the not-necessarily-pure but at least circulating stream of community and commonality. We connect to each other by our imperfections, through contact with our own flaws and failings.”

–The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, chapter 15.