Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?

I’ve come to believe that resentment is the work of the Devil — take that literally or figuratively. That statement makes me sound like a kook or a crazy, but my experiences in life — I’m 67 — have shown me how destructive the forces of resentment and hatred are.

I’m not religious at all — I’m more of  a spiritual person and believe unconditionally in the God of my understanding. I believe that my God guides my life if and when I let him. I’ve also learned that if I follow the rules (for instance the 10 Commandments and the 12 steps of AA, the Beatitudes, and others) things go better. It’s a pity we all have to test the rules as we grow up, but in the end you find that there are good reasons for them — they make sense. My favorite is the Golden Rule — it’s pretty easy to know what would offend me, so I try to keep that in mind when dealing with other people.

Then there are the 7 Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy, and pride) and how often these trip me up. How often do one of these play a role in our actions, or our acting out with other people? The key is to be rigorously honest with oneself. Often I have feelings of anger,  dissatisfaction, or sadness, and I wonder what’s going on with me. Sometimes it’s not immediately apparent what is motivating a feeling, so I have to go down a layer. Obviously feeling wronged is a biggie, or having been criticized in a way that seems unfair. But the thing with criticism is that you have to listen to it, then decide what is appropriate and what is not, and let it stop there. Yes, sometimes people are critical and it hurts — is it pride that’s in the way of listening, or anger (wrath)? Take the best and leave the rest (an AA slogan).

I’ve always been one who wants everyone to like me, so I have not always been honest. I’ll say and do what is expected of me to keep others happy. Well that’s a fast track to resentment — my actions need to be based on my moral code and my abilities, both physical and mental. I cannot stand confrontation and outright arguing. It makes me uncomfortable and anxious. While that stems from my family of origin, I can’t continue to blame them. I have to take responsibility for my actions. I may have to pull out of a fight, but come back later with my reasons for disagreeing, and set my boundaries. We have to protect our spirit and our mental balance so that we can be of service to others. And that is a key to happiness. Giving, not acceding to demands.

I get rid of resentment as quickly as I can, and as soon as I recognize it. Sometimes that means going to another person and stating my case and hoping for an apology. Sometimes it means that the other person, because of his or her personal growth, is simply not able to give what I want or need. They don’t get it. But I’m not responsible for their actions, only my own, so either forgiveness, or avoidance of toxic people, is my answer.

Finally I leaned a long time that I don’t have to act on my feelings. Yes, I feel them; no, I don’t have to lash out, be rude in return, or purposely hurt them where I know they’re weak. I can identify the feeling, try to figure out where it comes from, and let it go. I can’t change other people; I can only hope and pray that they will grow.

I try to be kind, but I also try to be true to myself these days. Yes, we still has to compromise sometimes, give in for the greater good, and work as a team. That doesn’t have to take away from one’s unique identity.