Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Henri Nouwen offers a way from resentment to gratitude

LINGERING RESENTMENT. Yesterday, I felt resentment toward someone. The resentful feelings surprised me. I thought I was over it, beyond it, above it. But there were its tell tale feelings--real, raw, reactive, rude. Even though I did not act upon my feelings, the fact that they emerged in regard to a certain person bothered me. I've been graced to forgive so much, make significant strides, learned to live compassionately on many fronts. But there was no mistaking it: resentment for at least one person lingers. So, I choose to address it, grapple with it, and, with God's grace, cooperate to see this, too, transformed into compassion.

A PRAYER. God, help me continue to forgive, to see resentment transformed into compassion, and to try to respond in a healing, compassionate way to any who live with resentment or who direct their resentment at me. Amen.

HENRI NOUWEN ON RESENTMENT. Henri Nouwen, whose writings are often a source of spiritual insight and grace for me, helps me with the following reflection about resentment:

HOW HEALING HAPPENS. "Healing ministry can be expressed in two words: gratitude and compassion. Healing happens often by leading people to gratitude, for the world is full of resentment. What is resentment? Cold anger. 'I'm angry at him. I'm angry at this. This is not the way I want it.' Gradually, there are more and more things I am negative about, and soon I become a resentful person."

HARDENED HEART. "Resentment makes you cling to your failures or disappointments and complain about the losses in your life. Our life is full of losses— losses of dreams and losses of friends and losses of family and losses of hopes. There is always the lurking danger we will respond to these incredible pains in resentment. Resentment gives us a hardened heart."

PAIN AND JOY, LOSSES AND GAINS. "Jesus calls us to gratitude. He calls to us, 'You foolish people. Didn't you know that the Son of Man—that you, that we—have to suffer and thus enter into the glory? Didn't you know that these pains were labor pains that lead you to the joy? Didn't you know that all we are experiencing as losses are gains in God's eyes? Those who lose their lives will gain it. And if the grain doesn't die, it stays a small grain; but if it dies, then it will be fruitful.'"

GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING? "Can you be grateful for everything that has happened in your life—not just the good things but for all that brought you to today? It was the pain of a Son that created a family of people known as Christians. That's the mystery of God."

BLESSING AMID PAIN. "Our ministry is to help people to gradually let go of the resentment, to discover that right in the middle of pain there is a blessing. Right in the middle of your tears—that's where the dance starts and joy is first felt. In this crazy world, there's an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they're never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom."

IN OUR WEAKNESS, JESUS' PRESENCE. "Jesus says, 'Cry over your pains, and you will discover that I'm right there in your tears, and you will be grateful for my presence in your weakness.' Ministry means to help people become grateful for life even with pain. That gratitude can send into the world precisely to the places where people are in pain. The minister, the disciple of Jesus, goes where there is pain not because he is a masochist or she is a sadist, but because God is hidden in the pain."

Resentment is serious stuff. It can thoroughly sabotage and disorient the best people. Learn more about resentment and how to overcome resentment -- click here.

Learn more about Henri Nouwen at the Henri Nouwen Society.
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