Many of us carry around unnecessary burdens. These burdens are often formed by resentments, which are in place due to past or present mistreatment. We seem to equate mistreatment with injustice. Without going into a long discussion of the payoff of holding on to our resentments and negative feelings, let us focus on what we might do to rid ourselves of the dark cloud that hangs over us from time to time.
Imagine that you are in a lineup in a busy cafeteria. You are balancing your lunch tray precariously and watching out for all potential threats to its stability. Suddenly, the person behind you lurches into your back, causing your tray to tilt and its contents to spill across the floor. This is where things get interesting. You whirl around and are faced with one of two scenarios. In the first scenario, the person glares at you and it becomes clear that they intentionally caused you to spill your lunch. In the second scenario, they appear to be embarrassed and it becomes clear that they were pushed from behind as well, causing them to bump into you. It was accidental.
Consider the difference in feelings you might have in each of these scenarios. I would imagine that in the first scenario, you would have bitter, if not aggressive feelings towards the other cafeteria customer. In the second scenario, I would imagine that you would be much quicker to forgive once you realized that it was only an accident. The only difference, and apparently the deciding factor for ill feelings, is our perception of the other person’s intention. If their intention was to harm, we harbour bad feelings. If they had no intention to harm, then we are more able to let these feelings abate.
Now consider some perceived injustice from your life. Is it possible that the person who has wronged you did not fully intend to cause the harm that was done? Is it possible that they were doing what they had experienced themselves and were taught was correct? Is it possible that they had no understanding of the consequences of their actions? Is it possible that they were misinformed, leading to inappropriate behavior? If it is possible, and I would say it is always possible (and in many cases, probable), then it is possible to let those hard feelings soften. In order to do that, however, we need to recognize what we are giving up when we let go of resentments. I will write about that in my next post. Until then, consider the possibilities.