is a terrible burden to bear. There are a few things that still bother me, even years after the fact: old wounds from a marriage, misunderstandings of a friend or lover, underminings of my work by discreditors. And when I see it in another person, I see again how painful and debilitating it is, to continue to carry this burden.
But when I stand in judgment of those others who also experience this burden, I am reminded of how hard it is to let go of it, to drop it, to move away from it. Prayer has helped me let go a bit, to let the pain diminish, but it doesn't take much to reignite the flame of resentment and mistrust. It'll flare up again at a word, at a look, at a memory.
When I left my marriage, unwilling to live in that situation any more, I did a lot of hard thinking and exploring with a therapist. Over the years after the divorce, I learned more about how I had contributed to the unhappiness in our partnership and eventually, after doing 12 step work, went to my ex-husband and asked for his forgiveness for the ways I had hurt him. He gladly gave it, but he did not do the same for me. He did not ask forgiveness of me. He may have meant to do so, but it didn't happen in any discernible way. This has made it hard to let go, as though I am still awaiting that moment, a moment I can't force to happen, a moment I have no control over.
A friend who has rejected me and refused to accept my apology, over slights both unintended and unknown, has stayed stuck in my resentful mind and I brood more often than I would like over that hurt.
In my first ministry, years ago, the conflict which caused me to tender my resignation from that congregation had a mixed outcome: several people who had criticized me harshly, had insulted and damaged my reputation publicly, felt regret for their actions and came to me and apologized after I apologized publicly for my own errors. Others did not and I still feel that resentful anger arise when I think of them, even these many years later.
The pattern I've seen, as I've looked at these events of my life, is that apology, asking for forgiveness from someone we've wronged, is a healing balm for those who are wronged and also for those who have done wrong. We heal ourselves when we ask for forgiveness from someone we've hurt. And we offer healing to others as well, when we acknowledge our errors and make amends, for without that apology, that amends, we make it difficult for the other person to let go of the anger and mistrust that are the outcome of our wrongful act.
So what do we do when we have not received an apology, not been asked for forgiveness? I hope we learn that we can't control others' actions, that we may not take revenge even though we might want to do so very badly, that lack of closure of such a wound is not often fatal unless we let the wound get infected and make us sick. I hope we learn to pray that we might be able to forgive that person who has wronged us. I hope that we might find closure in another way, if no apology is in sight.
I hope for these things for myself and for the several people I have talked with in the past week who are suffering from this burden of anger and mistrust of others.