“To err is human, to forgive infrequent” Franklin P Adams’ statement seems to be more appropriate these days than Alexander Pope’s original version. After all, we find it easier to get angry and to harbour resentment than to forgive. Forgiveness seems weak after all and resentment seems strong. We tell ourselves that we have learnt our lesson. But have we really?
Resentment: Holding On vs. Letting Go
The one thing we fail to realise is the resentment that we hold on to hurts one person the most – us. Each time we think about what it is that we’re angry about or resentful of, that’s all we think about. And that is a lot of time wasted on something very negative and potentially harmful.
We live in a culture that preaches the blame game. With such conditioning resentment automatically becomes part of our lives. What we don’t seem to realise is that we spend all that time brooding on what’s wrong and who’s to blame for holding us back. If we didn’t, we could use all that time and energy to find out ways to move forward.
The worst part is that half the time, the people we are resentful of, aren’t even aware of our resentment. We spend so much energy on them while they go about blithely leading their own lives and – dare I say it – doing better.
Letting go of acrimony might seem weak but it actually makes us stronger. Think of all the energy you don’t waste anymore blaming others, carrying grudges, being cynical. Instead you get up and go be the best you that you can be.
Fear: The Biggest Obstacle
Resentment can perhaps be a mask for an even bigger problem – fear. Resentment is good, we tell ourselves. If we are busy holding grudges, then we don’t have to acknowledge the real problem. After all, only cowards feel fear, right?
Wrong. Fear is a natural reaction. What is not natural is awarding it the status that we do. So afraid do we become of being hurt, physically, mentally or emotionally that we let fear cripple us. Whether it be a phobia of crowds or fear of intimacy, all that happens when we give into fear is that we hold ourselves back. Oh, we invent a lot of reasons for holding back. We tell ourselves that it could never work, that we aren’t good enough or even that this is not what we really want or need. In essence, we build cages for ourselves and maybe even our souls.
It’s easier to sit back and tell yourself why you can’t and shouldn’t do something. It’s much more difficult to face the fear – perhaps of failure or of judgement – head on and do what you want to do anyway. Fear can even take on the guise of practicality to debilitate you. For example, if you give up that job you hate, where’s the paycheck going to come from? What we forget is that we only have one life to live. Do we really want to live it at the mercy of the paycheck, or more importantly what it is a symptom of – paralyzing fear?
What you want is in front of you, most of the time. You probably know what it is and secretly yearn for it. But there are a thousand and one reasons you can’t have it. Or are there? Think about why you really are afraid to reach for your dreams. Is it because you believe that you won’t be able to achieve them? How will you know if you haven’t tried? Or is it because you were busy resenting others who were able to achieve theirs? So you’re convinced you can’t get yours.
But why are you so convinced? What has you so tied up in knots that you’d rather sit on the couch, bemoan your fate and think rancorous thoughts than actually go out there and be happy? At the bottom of it, all is fear – and the fact that you have given in to it. So stop. Stop now. Each time you think you can’t, try thinking instead, “I can”. It may sound trite but it works. Just try.