On letting go of anger, bitterness and unforgiveness
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
When we’ve been deeply hurt, it’s all too easy to become prisoners of resentment and unforgiveness. The temptation is to want to strike back, to take revenge, to get even. But there’s a better way: Let it go.
This better way was clearly the example of Jason Nixon, who, along with two others, was wrongly accused last year of shooting a wild horse near Sundre, north of Cochrane.
According to an outstanding story by Licia Corbella in the Calgary Herald for April 28, the false accusation and subsequent arrest by the RCMP cost Nixon his job, home, reputation and $100,000 in legal fees over what turned out to be the desire of the accuser to cash in on a $25,000 reward.
At the time of his arrest, Nixon was the general manager at Mountain Aire Lodge, the Mustard Seed Street Ministry’s treatment centre near Sundre for people struggling with addictions and homelessness. His accuser was one of the people he had helped get back on his feet. Nixon has every right to be angry and want to get even.
But according to Corbella’s story, that is anything but the case. On Good Friday, Nixon reflected on how Jesus was betrayed so terribly, even to the point of being crucified, yet His response was to forgive. Nixon is working through the implications of such forgiveness for his own life now.
In my column for July 9, 2008, I shared the story of one of our coffee companions who also embraced the process of forgiving someone who had grievously wronged her family. Annette Stanwick had to learn how to forgive her brother’s murderer.
Annette is the award-winning author of Forgiveness: the Mystery and Miracle, the book in which she recounts the whole ordeal surrounding her brother’s death, the subsequent trial, and how she confronted his murderer in a spirit of love and forgiveness. She has become a public speaker much in demand for the wisdom she shares around this difficult topic, as she inspires her audiences with unforgettable stories, and valuable tools and strategies for replacing negative emotions with freedom, peace and happiness. (See her website.)
In view of how many of our readers have mentioned to me recently that one of the hardest things in life for them to let go of is the attitude of unforgiveness, I contacted Annette and asked for her current thoughts on letting go.
Annette’s thoughts remind me of a great line I picked up from the late Ann Landers, advice columnist who gave me so much guidance during my teen-aged years. She said: “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.”
A more recent writer has his own take on the topic. Max Lucado says: “Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner!”
I’ll conclude with this note from Cochrane coffee companion and motivation speaker Leo Peters: “When we hang on to anger, hate, revenge and fear, rather than letting go and embracing love and forgiveness, we victimize ourselves. Let it go, let it go!”
© 2011 Warren Harbeck