I like being angry. There. I said it. I didn’t even KNOW I liked being angry until the following scenarios occurred: (brace yourself…this is fix’n to get ugly): a couple of years ago, there were a handful of people who enacted a type of “spiritual shunning” and stopped speaking to me (this is where I remind myself, again, that people are doing the best they can with what they have at any given time…this keeps me humble and from running people down with my car). They would walk right past me as if they didn’t know who I was. It was a hurtful period in my life; far more painful than cancer. Recently, there were a couple of situations where we ran in to these people. One of the people was clearly relieved to see me walking around and recovering from chemo. They spoke. My response (in my head, of course) was, “what a jerk! NOW they decide to talk to me?!?! Because I have cancer?”. A couple of days later we ran into a different person who had “shunned” us. They didn’t speak. My response (in my head, of course) was, “what a jerk! They STILL won’t speak to me? I have cancer, for pete’s sake!”. This is when it dawned on me that I clearly LIKED being angry. Resentful. Even a bit hostile. Speak to me or don’t speak to me…you can’t win. You can’t win because I won’t let you. I have a script in my head about what you must say and unless you say those EXACT words, I’m not budging. That’s some messed up thinking. Why would I WANT to hold on to that kind of ugly bitterness? I suspect that I was benefitting from it in some way and ultimately didn’t want to let it go.
So. Fast-forward about 24 hours from when I started this entry. I needed to think and ask God if my motives for writing this were “of sound mind”. Was I just trying to bust out the people who had hurt me or did I have a decent point that might help someone? I wasn’t sure, until I couldn’t sleep about 3:45 this morning. I had to answer the question: HOW was I benefitting from holding on to this resentment? I mean, there’s a pretty good chance that THEY have moved on with their lives and I’m the only one still nursing this thing. Here’s the answer God put in my head for what I was getting out of it: an EXCUSE: An excuse to blame my bad behavior on other people’s bad behavior. I held the magic ticket and I used it to justify engaging in certain negative behaviors ( rudeness, curtness, grouchiness, gruffness, isolating, etc.) and NOT engage in certain positive behaviors ( serving others, being a good friend, attending church, working out, eating healthy, connecting with my family, etc.) . I could blame it all on how they have hurt me. I remember that at one time I had this crazy thought when I couldn’t muster enough motivation or energy to work out: “I’ll show them. I’ll get fat! Then won’t they feel bad for what they have done?” Um, I doubt it. But I will be miserable, that’s for sure. I am reminded of a reading that says “The unpleasant things other people say or do have no power to destroy my peace of mind or ruin my day unless I permit it…I played the martyr role for a long time. My suffering brought me a lot of attention and pity. I grew accustomed to blaming others for my problems. I avoided taking responsibility for my own life.” Pause and reflect. What are YOU getting out of holding on to your resentments? I hope you can decide with me that whatever it is, it is no longer worth the price of your serenity and quality of life.
Before I write anything on my blog, I try to read a few things from some wiser, more grounded people. Most of what I read is broken down into dated, daily readings. I got goose bumps when I read the very first lines from one of today’s readings, dated just for me, I suspect. It’s from a book called Courage to Change: “How easy it can be to justify our own unacceptable behavior! Perhaps we EXCUSE ourselves, claiming we were provoked or had no choice. Or we dismiss our actions by telling ourselves that everyone does the same thing. With these and other justifications, we pretend that OUR wrongs don’t count.” Well, I guess that answers my question about posting this. At first I was afraid of making others look bad. Now, I am pretty sure that the focus on my own depravity has been sufficiently highlighted. I wasn’t quite prepared to wrestle with all this in me, because now I have the cancer ticket to go along with my EXCUSE. Rats. The question I have to ask, to wrestle with, in order to get the end of myself and on to what God has for me, is this: Do I really trust him to replace my resentments with something better? If I let it go, forgive, and give it to Him, will He really fill the gaping hole with something that might actually help me or others? Sounds scary, but maybe, just maybe, worth a shot.