I knew I had a problem when I accidentally slammed my own finger in the car door, and cried out in anger at her. I hadn’t even seen her in 4 months, but I had worn a deep anger rut in my thoughts–anger directed at her for the unjust treatment I had received.
Now here I stood, alone, actually angry at myself, nursing my swollen thumb and fuming about her offenses. “How could she! What was her problem…” echoed in my head. My faith and values taught me that I should forgive, and I even wanted to do it. I had read about forgiveness and encouraged my students to take steps toward forgiveness, but here I stood unable to shake my own resentment. I knew I had a problem.
An honest assessment of my life revealed that I was thinking about the offenses daily. I often caught myself fuming while doing menial tasks at work or around the house. It just wasn’t fair. It was just so complicated. And I just needed to get free of it…
Over the next few weeks, I opened Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Is a Choice, and journaled through many of his suggested questions. I went and talked it over with a trusted priest, and confessed my resentment. He suggested that I pray, “God forgive in me what I am unable to forgive.” I prayed this daily (and every time the bitterness and resentment reared its ugly head) for weeks, and continued to work my way through the book. Slowly (almost imperceptibly slowly), the resentment was displaced by sorrow for her, then compassion. Some days it was one step forward, two steps back, but with patience and a little effort every day, I found freedom, then peace.
I now have much more compassion for those who struggle to let go of anger. Forgiveness is hard. It’s hero’s work. I learned that real heroes are nothing like what we see in movies. Real heroes take little steps every day, even when they don’t feel like making the effort and they struggle to see any resulting change. They build great strength and discipline before they ever see any glimmer of the change they hope to make. In time, they also get to experience great joy and peace, whether or not anyone else happens to notice.
To all of you who are struggling to get free of the resentment and let go of the anger (that you have a right to), I’m praying for you. You can do it, one little step at a time.