I’m not ready to make nice I’m not ready to back down I’m still mad as hell and I don’t have time to go round and round and round
~The Dixie Chicks
Something’s been eating at me for quite a while now. Well a couple things, really. I’m not one for confrontation. I figured the anger I felt would just, well … go away. It hasn’t. Apparently, unexpressed anger doesn’t work that way.
It came up again, as it always does, literally around the house. It comes up when I’m sitting sideways at my inaccessible kitchen sink. Or when I fall off the too-narrow walkway in my power chair. Or when I have to call someone to fix the dishwasher that was improperly installed.
Let’s just say, I have a few unresolved issues with the contractor who did our renovation. Don’t get me wrong, I have a beautiful place. In the end, and for the most part, I’m happy. I’m sure it could’ve been worse. You hear nightmare stories all the time about contractors leaving unfinished work, never to be seen again. Ours wasn’t as bad as all that. If I were to call him right now, he might even pick up the phone. Maybe.
When the latest of these issues came up, I was sitting with my mom and issued forth my standard response. I called the contractor a few choice names. Mom, who used to join me in this game of profanity, simply shrugged and told me I needed to get over it. Get over it? She used to be just as mad as me! And now here she was, the picture of Zen, telling me to move on. But apparently, she had done just that.
I decided there might be something to this whole idea of getting over it when I realized I was still nursing a wound from over seven years ago. Some cowardly man-child I had dated broke up with me in an email, you see, and I still wished him ill will. Talk about get over it! I mean enough is enough! He doesn’t know I’m still mad. And if he did, it would probably only make him feel like a super stud! Luckily, chances are slim to none he’d actually stumble across this blog. So really, the only person I hurt by holding on to my bottled up anger is me. Seven years. I might be dangerously close to becoming bitter.
If you also have one or two things you’re holding on to, here are some ways to start letting go of your resentments and learn how to forgive and forget:
- Write about it. If you watched it this past week, you already know I was inspired by The Voice, my latest guilty pleasure. Songwriters (like The Dixie Chicks) and writers have an advantage here. I feel better already, having called my ex a cowardly man-child on the Internet (maybe Mark Zuckerberg was on to something). Just kidding, of course. While I can’t condone public name calling, here are some things that might help. Keep a journal. Write a letter and throw it away. Take a piece of paper and write the person’s name at the top. Then write down every single injustice, real or perceived, and what impact it had on you. End each one with “but I choose to forgive you and move forward.” Tear your paper into tiny pieces and burn or release them.
- Visualize or meditate. Reflect on the person, sending then kind and loving thoughts or prayers. Think about a postive attribute of their personality. Everyone has at least one. Develop your compassion. I’ve found it helps to picture them as they once were, an innocent child. Before life got in the way, gave them issues, and hardened them, as it does us all. It’s a lot harder to keep feeling anger towards a child.
- Reflect on examples of patience. We all know someone like this. Maybe you have a friend that doesn’t gossip and never has an unkind word to say about anyone. The kind of person you would feel guilty and petty ranting to. Calling that person to mind helps you evoke a sense of patience.
- Give a gift. I like this one. Maybe because I really like giving gifts. I can’t see mailing my ex a gift after seven years, but maybe I could send it anonymously. I think the point is the whole process. When you give the other person a gift — especially something you value — then you break the dynamic of your resentment. You shake things up within yourself. You have to think of the other person as a human being with needs. You have to think about what they might like. And if there’s mutual resentment, then you may shock the other person into seeing you differently.
It’s not easy. This is all still a work in progress for me. But it’s a start. Good luck!