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How do you free yourself of resentment toward others? Advice from a cardinal

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Italian Cardinal and newly-elected President of the Italian Bishop's Conference, Matteo Maria Zuppi

ANDREAS SOLARO | AFP

Gelsomino Del Guercio - published on 07/06/22

There’s only one way to really erase the spiritual disease of resentment, says Cardinal Matteo Zuppi.

There’s only one way to really erase the resentment we harbor toward other people. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the new president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, considered by many to be “papabile” (a good candidate for becoming the pope), explains this “remedy” in his book “Guarire le malattie del cuore” (“Healing the Diseases of the Heart”).

Resentment, says Cardinal Zuppi, is one of the spiritual diseases that we ourselves cultivate with care, as counterproductive as it may be. It actually blinds our vision, so much so that we cannot see anything other than the wrong we feel we have suffered (which sometimes exists only in our own imagination).

This “sickness of the heart” is like a tidal wave of evil, which submerges everything and from which it is very difficult to free ourselves. We believe that the injustice we have suffered justifies our negative sentiments. If not removed, this seed of evil will continue to grow in our hearts.

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Card. Zuppi gives advice on how to heal spiritual “illnesses.”

A long-term spiritual malady 

Resentment, adds the president of the Italian bishops, often takes root without immediate consequences, allowing us to feel good about ourselves; we tell ourselves that we don’t hate the person, we just avoid them. “I have nothing against him, but I don’t want to see him or talk to him,” we say. “I just stopped saying hello.”

Difficult to uproot

It is not easy to get rid of resentment, says Cardinal Zuppi. And it is by no means automatic, because renouncing our grudges seems to imply violence to ourselves. Doing so requires a lot of perseverance. Resentment lurks in the dissatisfactions of our heart and takes hold easily. This is also why we must forgive without reservation and without making it conditional on the offender’s behavior or compensation. And forgiving does not imply seeking justice first. 

An exercise that requires effort

In fact, only forgiveness can really help to find justice! Resentment lurks in fears, in a sense of injustice suffered and even in trivial attachment to one’s own convictions. Forgiveness, precisely because of this, is an exercise and requires effort, so that little by little what at first seems impossible becomes easy. It pays to forgive! Only forgiveness frees us from the evil we have suffered: this is the only possible remedy for defeating resentment.

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Jesus’ “recipe”

Seventy times seven is the infinite measure of forgiveness indicated by Jesus, freeing us from calculations and limitations. The only way we can always forgive is if we love, because only love rejects all measures and limits, like a father or a mother who always welcomes their children. Love covers all things, believes all things, endures all things. Everything. This is also why Jesus recommends forgiving “from the heart” (Mt 18:35).

The things to avoid

Forgiveness, then, Cardinal Zuppi emphasizes, is never an abstract matter, but is always very related to how we live our whole lives. If we don’t listen to Jesus, if we don’t let him love us and if we don’t love him, if we pray little, if we live self-centeredly, it will undoubtedly be more difficult to choose forgiveness, and we will end up turning ourselves into victims of resentment. 

The “wise memory” of evil

Hindsight, on the other hand, made pure by forgiveness, will help us to have a wise memory of evil we have suffered or caused, so we can fight it more effectively and know how to recognize it, but without entering the dangerous labyrinth of resentment. We will be happy with the undeserved gift of forgiveness which, the more we give it to others, the more we will know how to receive for ourselves.

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