Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
The longer you refuse to let something go, the longer you are chained to it.
We think we are in control when we hang on to hurt and blame. It is our anger, we want to own it! We have the right to be angry because we were maltreated, our lives were ruined, and we were damaged. Because of someone else’s actions or inaction, we have suffered. How dare they? We have every reason to hold them in contempt, darn it!
Picture walking a big dog down the street. It is untrained, and is dragging you into yards and traffic. It smells another dog’s presence and forces you into a race. Later, you could claim you took the dog for a walk. In the end of your version of the story you come out on top. You are the owner, the one who is right, and the dog is victimizing you by making your walks challenging.
Theoretically only, one of your options on the walk is to let go of the leash. Truth is, if you gave the dog freedom to run away your physical battle would be over. Later, your story could be that you once owned the dog, it made walks challenging, and so you let it go. How powerful you really are! Now you are free of the animal and the trouble that came with it.
In a similar way, letting the person or persons who brought you pain ‘off the leash’ so to speak, frees you from the mental difficulties that come with holding on. This does not mean they get off scot-free from wrongdoing, so please allow me to explain what I mean by ‘let go.’
Lawfully and morally, if someone commits a crime against another they ought to receive the punishment due them. Bringing legal charges against such a person protects you and perhaps others from further harm. With that said, you and I know there are deeper issues to wrestle in matters of forgiveness.
What does hanging on to anger look like?
- Thinking about the offense
- Thinking about the resulting harm
- Thinking about blame
For years I tried to forgive a person who lied to get what he wanted. His choices uprooted my life in significant ways. Whenever the consequences of his actions confronted me, I took a wrong versus right stance with me being right, of course. The events played in my memory as I searched for anything I may have missed.
A list of harm done became longer as life continued to unfold consequences. When his name came up I thought about him with disdain and distrust. How dare he get that promotion? How could other people be so blind? He is lucky I don’t go to his superiors.
I felt powerful in my resentment. Yet because of my spiritual training, knew it was an obligation to forgive him. By trying to do so, I managed to conjure up moments of good feelings toward the man, but they were all temporary and required much effort. Before long, old thoughts and feelings would rise.
How does hanging on to anger feel?
- Depressed mood.
- Continued pain
Whether or not depression in this case becomes clinical is not the point; we are not happy when caught up in an anger cycle. In my case jealousy grew. I wondered what was wrong with me and questioned how did this lying %^&$* have success and I not?
Fear blossomed. Maybe doing the right thing never works out. Maybe I’m incapable. Maybe it will happen to me again. Maybe I cannot trust anyone. In part, this fear paralyzed me in relationships and goal-setting. In some ways it restrained me from reaching out. All the while, continuing to blame this fellow for my difficulties fed pain in my heart.
And I felt powerful in my bitterness.
The dog was pulling me into alleys and dark tunnels. Blinded because of not forgiving this man, I lost sight of a few important things. His action altered my life temporarily while my choice to hang on to the offense helped to cripple me for years.
Stay tuned to part two of this series.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below). NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com