If we don't look at it, we submit to it
Perhaps we have known men and women who mistreated their partners for years. They were condescending towards their partners and ridiculed them constantly. Nothing their partners did was good enough. Finally, after years of mistreatment, their partner filed for a divorce. We would think that divorce and even remarriage would stop the harassment of the ex-spouse. For some this is not the case. It seems to be the mission of these people to make life as miserable as possible for their ex-spouse. It is as though they believe that their ex-partner mistreated them. In their mind they believe they are the victims, which entitles them to 'get even.' They never acknowledge their own cruelty and abusive behavior.
Some of us carry a lot of resentment towards the people we have injured. We act out resentments by avoiding them, making fun of them behind their backs, spreading vicious gossip about them, trying to turn friends and family against them, and acting as though we were the only one wounded.One of the ways to amend is found in a thought-provoking sentence in a prayer, 'Lord, please help me to forgive those whom I have injured.'
Why do we blame and direct our resentments towards the ones we have harmed? Perhaps, one of the reasons is that every time we see that person, it reminds us of the cruelty we are capable of doing and have done. Others of us can resent those who have helped us financially or who have been a caregiver for us. Each time we see them, just their presence reminds us of our weaknesses, failures and dependency. They saw a side of us that we have a difficult time accepting.
Alcoholics Anonymous addresses how to rid ourselves of these resentments in its 12 Step program. Steps 8 and 9 involve making amends to those we have injured unless this action brings more harm to the injured. Injuries might include such actions as broken promises, ruining a special occasion by being drunk, expressing anger in a destructive way or by damaging intimacy by building a wall around ourselves.
One of the ways to amend is found in a thought-provoking sentence in a prayer, 'Lord, please help me to forgive those whom I have injured.'
Learning to forgive those whom we have injured is not easy because the first person we need to confront is ourselves. When we truly come face to face with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that there is a side of us that can be cruel, that can lie, cheat and steal. As long as we blame others, we will not change. When we stop blaming others and own our actions, we take a major step in starting to change that side that can be destructive. Then we can learn to forgive the true culprit - ourselves.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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