Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House
One of the stickiest issues for many people is knowing how to deal with resentment and dislike towards and of other people. Much depends on individual personality; some people are more easily hurt and respond more strongly than others, but even the most saintly of folk find other people irritating!
It is a fact of life that other people wind us up! At the other end of the scale is the crippling anger and hate that overshadows and sours the inner life because of injustice and cruelty of one kind or another. Some of us do have enemies we find very hard to love and forgive.
The easiest thing to do is to forget about it and let the whole thing stew on consciousness’ back burner. This is disastrous. Some things may be out of mind but they are not beyond distorting the memory or poisoning the imagination and the spirit. This is a recipe for depression or other kinds of mental and emotional dis-ease. This is one of the ‘sins that clings so close;’ it is too easy to become emotionally dependent on hating or disliking someone; it is a powerful source of emotional and physical energy.
Not letting things go that will not let go of us is never an option. I am afraid that sometimes we have to turn around and deal with the anger and the hurt. The Lord’s Prayer teaches that our own receipt of forgiveness is dependent on our forgiving others. I often find myself apologizing to people when this is pointed out: ‘I am sorry – but this is how it is!’
Psalm 37 is a good place to start in dealing with anger and resentment. It emphasises the goodness of God and his knowledge of every situation, and celebrates the truth that God’s good purpose will be fulfilled.
With this in mind it exhorts us to ‘fret not’ and to ‘let go of anger.’ It teaches us to commit all our needs to God; it encourages to ‘do good,’ to ‘delight in the Lord.’ It schools our heart to ‘wait patiently for him’ and teaches us that seeking to carry out our own will ‘only leads to evil.’ In short – do not try to do God’s work for him.
The Christian life is all about working with God; which is why Jesus teaches we must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. We must also ‘pray for those who persecute you.’ This is not a version of ‘positive thinking’ much vaunted by life-coaches. This is a partaking in the saving Grace of God, who for our sake was reviled and rejected, that we may know for certain there ‘is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.’
Indeed, it a work of God’s Grace when we do pray for those who hate us, for in that act of will we place our hurt and confusion in God’s mercy and this is the beginning of our own healing.
One last thing. All this becomes a matter of life and death when there are hurts and resentments within the Church. In these cases it is an absolute duty to pray for those that wound or persecute. A failure to do so crucifies afresh the Lord of Love.