I often have occasion to return to the wisdom of Metropolitan Jonah, particularly his talk “Do Not Resent, Do not React, Keep Inner Stillness.” Here is what the retired Metropolitan has to say about the resentments that disrupt our inner stillness and peace.
Resentment comes when we refuse to forgive someone, justifying ourselves by our self-righteous indignation at being hurt. Some of these hurts can be very deep: abuse, abandonment, betrayal, rejection. Sometimes they can be very petty. We keep turning the hurt over and over in our minds, and refuse let it go by justifying our anger. Then we feel justified in hating or despising the person who hurt us. Doing this, we continue to beat ourselves up with someone else’s sin, and compound the other person’s sin by our own resentfulness. We blind ourselves to our own sin, focus only on the sin of the other, and in so doing, we lose all perspective.
We have to put things into perspective, and realize that the other person’s actions are only part of the equation, and that our own reaction is entirely our own sin. To do this, we have to move towards forgiveness.
To forgive does not mean to justify the other person’s sin. It does not mean that we absolve the other person—not hold them responsible for their sin. Rather, we acknowledge that they have sinned and that it hurt us. But what do we do with that hurt? If we resent, we turn it against ourselves. But if we forgive, we accept the person for who he is, not according to his actions; we drop our judgment of the person. We realize that he is a sinner just like me. If I am aware of my own sins, I can never judge anyone. We can begin to love him as we love ourselves, and excuse his falling short as we forgive ourselves. It helps when the person who hurt us asks for forgiveness, but it is not necessary. We must always forgive: not only because God forgave us; but also because we hurt ourselves by refusing to forgive