During the holidays, we may find ourselves in situations that spark resentment and fear. This is often due to the close proximity we find ourselves with family and friends, or nostalgic feelings of idealized closeness and comfort that are not always realistic. When those feelings or ideas of the perfect holiday are challenged by uncomfortable encounters with others, harsh reality can permeate the good vibes and ignite stress and exasperation. When a family member is struggling with addiction, mental health or emotional issues, these types of situations are commonplace. Maybe your son or daughter ruined Thanksgiving the year before by drinking heavily and making a scene, incensing relatives and filling you with shameful feelings. Maybe your spouse’s unexplained, silent absence broke hearts. Maybe somebody you love, regardless of the situation, hurt your feelings deeply. Maybe a person treated someone you love in a way you felt was unhealthy or hurtful. There are myriad scenarios that can alight the process of resentment like fuel to a flame. At some point, if we hope to grow, to truly hold ourselves and others in loving kindness, we have to ask ourselves what we are accomplishing by holding on to resentment and by extension, fear.
I firmly believe the only person we are hurting when clinging to these emotions and feelings is ourselves. We are in dire need of a new direction, a process in which we might drop the load of suffering we carry in resentment. Being resentful, fanning those flames, is stressful work. Forgiveness is our key, our foundation to a new relationship. It will open the doors of freedom and allow the light and grace to flow freely through you and into others. But how do we forgive? How do we let go when we have been wronged, however unprovoked the attack may have been?
First, we need to take a look at ourselves. Are we the utter pinnacle of perfection and good behavior? Have we never in our lives hurt another person? Are we without fault or ego? The answer, of course, is no. As human beings, we are innately fallible. People will always let you down. It’s the nature of life itself. We look to God for guidance, healing, direction, wisdom and grace. Who are we to say that we hold the power of ultimate judgement within us? If someone in our lives who previously hurt us has demonstrated progress, spiritual growth and maturity, it’s my belief that we ought to take a look at giving them a chance, not only for their sake, but for our own. If they are not in a position to show healing and maturity, love them by sticking to your boundaries until they are ready.
Over the course of my life, my addiction manifested itself in numerous bad behaviors. I hurt people without provocation. I let my family down. And, whilst many people held firm boundaries with me for a season in my early recovery – eventually I was able to make amends, to demonstrate my apologies with positive action. The kicker here though, is that even before I began to heal, even while I was actively using and struggling, my family learned to let it go. By forgiving me, by recognizing the disease in me and not associating it with my true self, they were able to experience healing and freedom themselves. The picture I aim to paint here is that regardless of someone being well or not, being resentful with them for the behavior is ultimately fruitless. Frustration is common. Anger is normal. Carrying that with you, ruminating on it endlessly to the point of sleepless nights is only going to destroy your own health and well-being.
Try beginning with yourself. Forgive yourself. Forgive your faults, your shortcomings, your character defects. Ask God to work within you, to show you the spiritual path to freedom from the bondage of self. Reach out to others who have come before you, spiritual advisors, counselors, trusted friends etc. Recognize that this isn’t an overnight process and put honest stock in living your best life. Learning to live with other people, to have healthy relationships, to practice love and tolerance regardless of how you might feel in the moment starts with you and God. If we are feeling insecure, with no self-esteem to speak of, we won’t get far in making amends with others. The insidious nature of poor self-worth will guarantee that the chains of resentment will bind you. The detrimental turmoil of an overly stressed and dejected mind will make healthy relationships impossible.
I urge you, this holiday season, to set aside your differences by growing spiritually in your own lives. Whether or not someone will be at the Thanksgiving table means little; do not lament their absence, don’t hold them in contempt for their sickness. Don’t endlessly replay the negative and hurtful interactions you’ve had with them over the years. Ask God to show you how to let it go. Your life will be enriched by the freedoms you will experience from this simple practice. Growing that spiritual relationship will allow His grace to be demonstrated, to shine through you. You will know true forgiveness and peace, and you will feel empowered to bless others with the same principles. Our time on this mortal plane is short. Don’t let ego and resentment cut you off from the sunlight of the spirit. Live every day in presence, in the here and now, and recognize that the pain of holding a grudge will never serve you or the people around you.
My hope and prayer today is that you all experience the joy of the holidays, of community, fellowship, family, and love, regardless of your circumstances, by recognizing that our peace of mind is intertwined with God’s ultimate love and forgiveness for us all.
Peace be with you,
Sean – In Recovery
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org