Holding onto resentment makes us unhappy, but choosing forgiveness brings relief and healing.
“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
This sentence originally appears in the book A Monk Swimming (1998), by American writer and actor Malachy McCourt, known for playing Irish Catholic priests in films and TV shows such as Ash Wednesday (2002), the HBO series Oz (2002-2003), and the soap opera All My Children (1992-2009). However, the saying is so clear and insightful that it’s become a kind of popular proverb, often attributed to William Shakespeare or Albert Einstein.
Indeed, if we stop to reflect, we’ll realize that holding a grudge doesn’t bring us any kind of relief, much less serve any purpose of revenge. It only harms the person who is already hurt.
Resentment is a toxic feeling that eats away at us from the inside. Above all, it prevents us from getting on with our lives, because of the space that it occupies in our minds and hearts.
As the Mozambican writer Mia Couto wrote in his book Na Berma de Estrada Nenhuma e OutrosContos (“On the Side of No Road and Other Stories,” 2001): “Waiting is a weaving. We create presences with materials of absence.” That is, although our resentment may be directed at someone with whom we no longer have any contact, that absence becomes presence because we’re holding on to this useless feeling.
“The enemies we do not forgive will sleep in our bed and disturb our sleep,” wrote Brazilian psychiatrist Augusto Cury, creator of Multifocal Intelligence Theory.
Forgive for your own good
Resentment usually emerges when our ego is wounded. It says much more about the one who is hurt than the one who actually caused that pain.
Holding a grudge is more a way of repressing a feeling than of assimilating it. The past has passed, the future is yet to be: The only time over which we really have control and in which we can exercise our freedom is the present.
But sorrow imprisons us in the past. The only way we can be free is to liberate ourselves from what once was.
In the Bible itself, there are countless verses about the importance of forgiveness. As we read in the Gospel of Matthew:
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Mt 18:21-22)
If He believes in forgiveness, who are we to put ourselves in a position of superiority and judgment? Forgive everyone who has hurt you. If not for them, for you. Purity of heart and lightness of spirit are worth more than any resentment.