Have you ever been so badly hurt by someone that you swore to never forgive – and still haven’t to this day?
When you think of that person and what they did to you, do you feel discomfort or heat throughout your body, especially the areas around your stomach, head and chest?
If you answered yes, it may surprise you to know that the discomfort you feel is your body’s response to resentment.
Resentment, along with stress and fear, triggers the stress hormone cortisol which prepares the body for the fight or flight response.
Cortisol rapidly supplies energy to the large muscles in your body, flooding it with glucose. Your blood will also start to pump harder and faster as the cortisol works to narrow the passageways of your arteries.
This explains why, when in fight or flight response, you will feel shaky, your mouth will become dry and your palms may sweat.
A person who continuously harbors resentment will produce more of this cortisol more often than someone who doesn’t. The problem with constantly elevated cortisol levels is that it can damage your health in numerous ways.
As you can see, elevated cortisol has the potential to wreak havoc with our bodies. But knowing of the risk to longevity that resentment can bring doesn’t necessarily make letting go any easier.
Some of us vow to carry resentment with us forever in a misguided tribute to the hurt and the suffering we’ve endured.
The accepted view of psychology is that resentment is an ego defense mechanism only.
This means that the depth and length of resentment felt has no correlation to pain experienced. Instead resentment is caused by the fear of pain. What the ego is most scared of in this situation is being hurt again or losing the battle by ‘giving in’.
For example, someone may justify lingering resentment by entertaining these fears:
• They will be ‘getting away with it’
• They don’t deserve forgiveness
• They need to pay for what they did
• They will hurt me again
• Why should I forgive when what they did still hurts?
None of these fears have any basis in reality though when you really think about it.
For example, how would ‘they’ actually be ‘getting away with it’ if you were to forgive them, especially if you chose not to tell them?
Or, how will forgiving literally allow them to ‘hurt you again’?
A helpful step towards resolving this illogical argument with your ego is to:
1. Admit you still harbor resentment
2. Identify what your fear is
3. Take yourself through the reasons why the fear is not realistic
If you find this exercise unsuccessful or difficult to do on your own you might like to talk to a counsellor or mental health professional to help you resolve it once and for all.
Imagine being able to think of a moment in your past that still haunts you, except that now, instead of feeling pain or anguish, you feel peace. Imagine that for a moment; peace, not pain.
That feeling of peace can only exist when your body and mind is not under stress. As stated earlier, stress, fear and resentment releases the stress hormone cortisol, preparing your body to either fight or flight from a perceived threat.
You could say that forgiveness is the ability to think of an old hurt without triggering a painful emotional reaction. A neutral or loving reaction is the response of a mind that has forgiven.
Resentment not only affects us on a physical level but also spiritually and emotionally.
Having unpleasant dreams about the subject of your resentment, or having recurring dark thoughts or having ill wishes about the object of your resentment is not a sign of good spiritual or emotional health.
Suffering in this way can only be healed by forgiveness. Forgiveness heals suffering on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. We can release trauma once we forgive and let go of the resentment we feel. If you cannot come to a place of healing on your own, make it a priority to find someone who can help you to get there. If you are suffering with resentment, forgiveness is imperative for your own wellbeing and happiness.
Forgiveness may start as an act of self care towards yourself, but you will find after you have healed enough within, feelings of peace towards the other person will come to you with no effort at all, whether you think you want it to or not!
Of course, some wrongdoings are so terrible that even the law of the land says that person should not be pardoned.
How do you deal with that?
Is it possible, or even advisable, to forgive in that instance?
In June 2015, a man filled with hate walked into a prayer meeting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, shooting dead nine people because he believed the color of their skin was the reason for his own life’s shortcomings.
Amazingly, loved ones of those that were murdered stood up and addressed the killer at his bond hearing. And instead of responding to hate with hate they told the murderer that they forgave him.
For the family of the victims, their words of forgiveness were divinely-inspired acts of faith in the power of good over evil. This powerful act of forgiveness didn’t mean pretending the crime never happened, nor did it mean that the crime was somehow justifiable or excusable.
What it did mean though for the family of the victims, is that they reached a state where they consciously chose to let go of more suffering. They chose to work towards health and harmony, and valued those qualities more than any desire for revenge.
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” Catherine Ponder, minister for Unity Church and acclaimed American inspirational author.
Affirmations can be an effective tool to help our hearts and minds to forgive.
Click here to access our free guide: Ten Forgiveness Affirmations to Help You Release & Heal. You will receive a PDF file of ten powerful affirmations to ease your path to forgiveness.
There is nothing any body can do or say to cause you to forgive; forgiveness has to be a choice that you are willing to make.
But if you only need one reason to forgive, perhaps it can be that forgiveness heals your mind, body and soul of the pain caused by the past.
If you need a second reason to forgive, perhaps it can be that forgiveness is an act of love, initially towards yourself, but one that has a ripple effect on the collective consciousness of humanity.
Have you successfully healed from resentment or from a painful situation in the past? What strategies and tools did you find most effective? Please tell us in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!
The Game of Life book by FLORENCE SCOVEL SHINN, LOUISE HAY
Basking In Light are proud Affiliate Partners of Hay House Inc and may receive commission for sales made through our affiliate links.
Overcoming Chronic Resentment and the Abuse It Causes, by Steven Stosny, Ph.D.
Kate Barton is a Sydney based ‘lightworker’ – a person who intentionally works to bring healing, love and light to the world. A lifelong student of metaphysics Kate also publishes Basking In Light, a website and online community sharing uplifting news, inspirational true stories and accessible tools for self empowerment and soothing. For more information on Basking In Light visit www.baskinginlight.com or see Facebook page facebook.com/baskinginlight.