Life Lessons Learned:
The Importance of Releasing
Resentments and Making Amends
by Judith Orloff, M.D.
At fourteen I fell in love for the first time. Andyís eyes were cobalt blue. Iíll never forget how they sparkled when he surfed Malibu. Or the sweet scent of jasmine as we held each other on spring evenings in the botanical gardens by my home. Then one day, after being
inseparable for nearly two years, I spotted him kissing the most popular blond haired, blue eyed cheerleader at school. Worse, they saw me, but still kept on making out in her new red Camaro. Crushed, I wept for months, had zero energy. The worst part was Andy never called to
explain. In fact, it took twenty years for him to contact me. All that time Iíd harbored hurt and a long list of understandable resentments.
Finally, when we met for lunch in Venice Beach, I asked him, ďWhy?" Of course I felt terrific hearing, ďIt was the worst mistake of my life, and I was selfish. I just wanted to be popular.Ē Teenage priorities: in retrospect they were easier to comprehend.
The miracle of the afternoon was that I could begin to forgive him; bitter grievances that Iíd held so long started to recede. Perhaps my heart had grown, or peopleís shortcomings--and my own--seemed more forgivable as Iíve gotten older. Whatever the reason, energy loosened
in me that I didnít even know was constricted. From then on, I felt more of my vibrance accessible.
As resentments amass, theyíre like a film clouding the clarity of your energy. There may seem to be a million ďgoodĒ reasons to cling to them, but from an energy standpoint no reason holds up. You might even get a charge from all that resentment, but in
the end itíll asphyxiate you. What Iím suggesting is to reel your ego in, tenderly sort through lingering hurts, then strive to surrender them. Not for anyone else, but for you.
Forgiveness is a state of grace, nothing you can force or feign. In Energy Psychiatry I guide patients toward the large-heartedness to forgive both injuries others have caused or theyíve self-inflicted. Forgiveness penetrates the impenetrable--the
obstinacy that stifles love, the tenacious pain that dams our energy reserves. A Stanford research study showed that forgiveness significantly decreases stress, rage, and psychosomatic symptoms. Makes sense, considering all the built-up negative energy that forgiveness
expels. Iím not saying that betrayal is ever justified, that you arenít entitled to be upset if someone wrongs you. Or that you shouldnít try to improve or else leave a destructive situation. Forgiveness, though, ensures that resentments donít gorge ravenously on your energy.
Finally, remember forgiveness refers to the actor, not the act. Not the offense but the woundedness of the offender.
Make Changes Now. Letting Resentments Go.
The purpose of relinquishing resentments is to increase your positive energy. Select a target. A critical mother. A controlling husband. A cutthroat colleague. Perhaps youíve tried to discuss the grievance with no results. (Always attempt to work things
out if the person is the slightest bit receptive.) Or your target may truly be unapproachable. In either case, away from the person, air your resentments without sugarcoating them. Do this in a journal, with a therapist, or friend. For example say, ďI despise the
double-crossing conniver because...Ē No inhibitions. No shortcuts. Frankly expressing your feelings is a necessary bridge to forgiveness.
But then, in a quiet moment, really reach to find compassion for the personís shortcomings, not the deed itself. Seek to probe. This may be very hard work. What insecurities or fears motivated him? Why is her heart so closed? What caused his moral
blindness? Try to discern the context of the personís actions. At this point, you may be inwardly able to ask yourself to start to forgive. Perhaps youíre not there yetóthatís okay. The request itself sets off a stream of positive vibes, a purgative cleansing of your system.
Repeat the exercise once a day for at least a week. See if your energy improves. Iíll bet youíll feel a burden lift.
Now letís reverse the scenario. What if youíre the one who has harmed someone? Inevitably, we all do, even if unintentionally. Admit it, please. It could be small wrongs. A good friend who was nursing a grievance correctly reproached me: ďYou donít
respect my time when you always show up late for dinner.Ē Or it could be larger wrongs. You may embezzle money, cheat on your wife, slander a partner. No matter the offense, to reverse negative energy you must start by making amends.
Taking responsibility initiates damage control. In my situation about being late to dinner, of course I knew my friend was right, though I must confess a stubborn part of me was still tempted to get defensive. Still, I realized it didnít serve me well to
come from that place. I apologized, promised to show up on time in the future. Itís important to understand, I meant what I said. It felt great. My friendís resentment lifted. End of story. Sometimes such an admission is all thatís needed to clear the slate. Donít let false
pride deter you.
Obviously, larger wrongs take more doing to heal. Follow these steps. First, with as much humility as you can muster, make your amends. Next, do everything humanly possible to right the situation: repay debts, publicly revoke a slanderous statement, enter
couples therapy to mend a betrayal. Ultimately, though, forgiveness is up to the person harmed. In my psychiatric practice, Iíve seen relationships survive a deep wounding, but only when much sincere effort was committed. However, even if the rift is irreparable, your amends
are imperative. They stop the perpetuation of bad energy.
© Copyright 2006 Judith Orloff, M.D.
All RIghts Reserved.
More Books by Judith Orloff, M.D.
Judith Orloff, M.D. author of the new book Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, and
(Three Rivers Press, 2005). She is also author of the bestsellers Guide to Intuitive Healing and
Second Sight. She is a psychiatrist, a practicing intuitive, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, has a
private practice in Los Angeles, and is an international workshop leader on the interrelationship of intuition, energy, and medicine.