Clipping the Tangled Burden of Resentment

"There is nothing more time consuming than having an enemy."

Loving your enemies is a tall order. Perhaps developing tolerance towards others is a more realistic starting point. How does one go about clipping the burden of resentment? The black belt of yoga philosophy is the fourth principle: practicing detachment towards those who have harmed us. In her book, Bringing Yoga to Life, author and lifelong yoga instructor Donna Farhi describes becoming consumed with an extended family member who failed to acknowledge the death of her brother. She details her resentment as evolving into full blown hatred because when the roles had been reversed, she had supported this relative in her own time of loss. She shared her story of injustice with whomever would listen. She imagined tragedy befalling her relative as a sort of payback to which she would not respond. She planned to forgive her relative once she was dead, for that would be easier, picturing herself by her coffin. Her thought was, "I forgive you, but I am still right."

Though she knew that her relative was a lonely person who had few friends or close relationships with others, these facts failed to soften her. She wondered if acknowledging this family loss would set in motion a wave of discouragement her relative was afraid to face. Finally, Farhi decided to pick up the phone since she did not have the courage to visit her. Though nothing changed in her relative's behaviour, for Farhi, it broke the last vestiges of resentment and brought a deep sense of relief, energy and lightness. She states:

"There is nothing more time consuming than having an enemy. Further analysis might reveal that the selection of reruns is limited so that we rewind, replay and rescript our past and imagined future interactions with alarming regularity. We might notice a thorny resistance to changing our point of view because it can be so satisfying to be right. Or we play the victim by fingering our wounds and showing off our scars as proof of how badly we've been treated. Practicing this fourth attitude doesn't mean we forego healthy discrimination in our relationships or that we stay in abusive or unhealthy partnerships. It just means that we don't have to hold on to the story and harbour ill will toward another. By expounding on the behaviour of others, we fortify our ill will and encase ourselves in bitterness. We inflict suffering on ourselves and manufacture our own torment by failing to detach ourselves from things that ultimately, we cannot change in another."

As actress Carrie Fisher stated, "Revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

Forgiveness only has to happen once. Make the conscious decision to move on and let go of things you can't change. Being right isn't more important than being at peace. Accept that the other person may have done things for reasons you don't understand. In fact, you may even be mistaken about the situation. The only thing in your control is your own behaviour so choose wisely to stop nurturing the grudge and move ahead of being petty by shifting your focus.

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