There are few emotions as uncomfortable as resentment. An old saying sums it up well: "We drink the poison and then wait for the other person to die." Resenting others, we do poison ourselves. When our energy is spent on imaginary fights with those who have wronged us, we are not present in our day-to-day life. We have poisoned our own well.
"But, Julia!" my student protests. "You don't understand. My ex-wife has truly wronged me."
There are always those one or two people who we are so sure are in the wrong. And they may well be — but so are we, as long as we are stewing in resentment toward them, going back over what they have done, or jumping into the future, fantasizing about what they might do. As long as those people are living rent-free in our minds, we are not free to prosper.
When we are stuck in this destructive cycle, the person who is most hurt is us. We aren't just suffering in the moment of attack; we are reliving that moment over and over. We rehearse what we should have said. We create stories about what our next interaction with these people will be. We are caught in an obsession.
How To Escape the Harsh World of Resentment
So what do we do?
The answer is very simple. Pray for the person you resent.
"What?" my students always exclaim. "I can't do that. Anything but that. Pray for them? I don't even know how to pray!"
"Wish them well," I say. "Pray that they get everything you want for yourself."
A girl in the front row raises her hand. "I was sexually abused by my uncle. I cannot pray for him. I want to kill him."
"Do you see how these emotions are hurting you?" I ask her gently.
"Yes," she says, her eyes filling with tears. "He's making me crazy, and he doesn't even know I am thinking of him."
"Right," I say. "What is your uncle's name?"
"I'd like you to write the following phrase down ten times: `God bless Carl.' See what happens."
She begins to write. Her courage inspires those around her. Other students take deep breaths, open their notebooks, uncap their pens. I wait.
Letting Go and Letting God
"Take a deep breath," I say when they are finished. "What was your experience with that exercise?"
The girl in the front row raises her hand."I can't believe it," she says, her eyes wide. "At first, it felt terrible to write the words 'God bless Carl.' I thought that by praying for him, I was saying that what he had done was okay. But I started to have thoughts I've never had before. It dawned on me that he's very sick, and that has nothing to do with me. So many therapists have told me that, but I never 'got it' myself until it occurred to me right now. Then the more I wrote, `God bless him' the more I realized that maybe I meant, 'God take him.' He's not my problem. He's God's problem."
Indeed. Those who have hurt us are God's problem — and God can handle them. It is not God's will for us to stew in resentment, missing out on our lives.
Forgiveness: The Best Way to Annoy Your Enemies
Always, one hundred percent of the time, when we are stuck in resentment, we are avoiding ourselves. There is always a productive action lurking nearby, waiting patiently for us to take it. Focused on our neighbor's nosy gossip, we are not focused on the flowers waiting to be planted on our side of the fence. Planting those flowers will heal us — and put our neighbor in perspective.
Oscar Wilde once said, "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much." Taking our attention off those who have wronged us, we reclaim our power and we have less negativity in our lives.
Using Our Energy Positively and Freeing Ourselves
Praying for those who have wronged us is a positive use of the energy we are already spending on the people we wish we weren't thinking of at all. Instead of driving ourselves crazy with resentment, through forgiveness we free ourselves of their destructive power over us.
If we can pray for those who have hurt us, we will have taken the first steps toward forgiveness of others, and the first steps toward living our lives most fully.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA).
©2011 by Julia Cameron. www.us.PenguinGroup.com.
The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of "Enough"
by Julia Cameron with Emma Lively.
With inspiring daily tools and strategies that follow in the footsteps of Julia Cameron's groundbreaking The Artist's Way, this book guides readers in developing a life that is as full and as satisfying as they ever thought possible.
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About the Author
Julia Cameron has published 30 books, highly praised short stories, award-winning essays and hard-hitting political journalism. Her credits range from Rolling Stone to The New York Times. A novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, she has distinctive credits in theatre, film and television. As author of The Artist’s Way, Julia is credited with founding a movement that has enabled millions to realize their creative dreams. Julia eschews the title creativity expert, preferring instead to describe herself simply as an artist. Visit her website at http://juliacameronlive.com.