My clients come to me for help, but I often learn so much from them. The other day, a gentleman came to see me for counseling. He was getting up there in years and wanted to talk to someone about the way he had been feeling for quite some time now. As he began to speak, his story unfolded—his story of resentment and his story of regret. He discussed the early years of his marriage, his long, long days at the office, and his children, who had grown up in the blink of an eye. He spoke about the years he spent angry, angry at himself for the things he could have changed. He discussed the precious time that just slipped by while he was busy worrying about tomorrow. “So much time wasted,” he said with tears in his eyes.
As I listened to him, I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes as well. His message was, Where has the time gone, and why did I not appreciate the moment? I listened closely—I didn’t want his message to be mine. I thought about my kids and about how quickly they were growing … and how easy it is to get caught up in the things in life that really don’t matter.
After taking some time to share his pain, I steered him in a different direction. I helped him to reflect on the things that he did stop and appreciate, and I helped him to see the good in his life. And most important, I helped wake him up to right now—after all, his life was not over.
This client reminded me of an important lesson, and maybe we all can learn from it. Tomorrow, today will be the past and we will wonder what we did with it. Let’s not waste today holding on to bitter resentment. Let’s appreciate what we do have. Let’s enjoy the day.
Author Louis L’Amour said, “A man can lose sight of everything else when he’s bent on revenge, and it ain’t worth it.”
Another client of mine, Sylvia, is chronically angry with her mother, and she has been for years. The anger has been poisoning her and slowly tearing her apart. She has been so consumed with anger that she has been shutting out all of the joy in her life. Sylvia’s mother is in her late eighties and is struck with an illness that is taking over her body. “Let go,” I stressed to this client. I moved my chair a little closer, but not too close. I looked my client in the eye, and with extreme passion, I whispered, “It is time to let go. Enjoy the time you have left with your mother.” Sylvia’s eyes welled with tears, and she nodded yes. She knew the time had come—the time to rid herself of the poison, the time to stop ruminating about the past, the time to reclaim her life, and the time to finally let go.
There are many different patterns of behavior that hold us back from being the person we want to be. But one of the most common and most destructive things that we can do to ourselves is to hold on to past grievances. When we are full of bitterness, there is no place for love to dwell.
For a moment, visualize your body filled with a poison that makes you chronically angry, takes away your energy, crushes your enthusiasm, and prevents you from experiencing joy in life. Wouldn’t you want to rid yourself of that poison? Well, that poison has a name, and its name is resentment. Resentment not only kills your spirit, but it also can kill your physical body. You see, disease is attracted to resentment. Giving up resentment and releasing it can improve your mental health, your spiritual health, and your physical health. It may even save your life. As long as you are focused on how another person harmed you, you hold on to that poison, which prevents you from moving on with your life and being the best that you can be.
In order to grow as a person and get your life moving in the right direction, you have to decide to release the bitterness from within. The toxic grudge isn’t hurting the person who harmed you; it is poisoning only you. Someone may have hurt you in the past, but if you are holding on to resentment, you are the one hurting you in the present. Haven’t you been hurt enough? Maybe it is time to let go.
You cannot alter the past, but you can build on today. Let go of those thoughts of retaliation and use that energy to move forward in a new direction. It is important that you realize that you are no longer a victim but a strong, resilient human being, capable of amazing things. Letting go is realizing that the person who hurt you may have once been wounded in the same way. Letting go is refusing to allow the harmful act of another to occupy a permanent place in your mind. Letting go is ridding yourself of any venomous negativity that may be traveling through your bloodstream, seeping from your pores, and occupying space where happiness could dwell. It is removing the chains that bind you. Letting go is a precious gift to yourself.
*Names and identifying information in this book have been changed to protect the confidentiality of my clients.
The above excerpt was taken from my book, The Snowball Effect: How to Build Positive Momentum in Your Life. This book shows us how to let go of resentment and helps us move in a more positive direction. Check it out by clicking here. You can also get the kindle edition for only $3.03. Check it out on Amazon by clicking here.