Monday, April 30, 2007

DIVINE RESENTMENT: Purposeful Bitterness

I sometimes hear people say that we live in a Universe that 'conspires for our good.' Does that include the 'bad experiences' as well?

Both the physical and psycho-spiritual realm(s) are comprised of positive and negative poles. Psychologically, that means that the so called 'negative' emotions are just as normal, necessary and useful as positive thoughts and emotions. Resentment is one such emotion. The term 'resent' literally means 'to feel or experience again'.

Re = again
Sent = to feel

When you recall or re-feel an old wound or past offense, this is resentment. I have heard many preachers rail against resentment as something that destroys the soul and body. These preachers tell us that we must forgive, or release our offender. Jesus told his disicples to forgive their enemies. To some extent they are right - we are not made to revisit old wounds over and over and over. This chronic dis-ease can be physically and emotionally harmful.

However, if the Universe is constructed intelligently, then there must be a reason for these old feelings to keep coming back. I suggest that each old would, offense, betrayal or abuse contains a divine lesson pertaining to our destiny. In other words, there is a valuable golden nugget in each deep rocky mine shaft of past hurt.

I am not talking about forcing yourself to concoct some nonsensical silver lining in the dark cloud, but to spend time reflecting on hurtful events if they keep coming back. An intelligently constructed Universe includes the gift of resentment, because with the return of the old feelings of anger, sadness and hurt comes a soul-making gift and subsequent psychic shift.


Jesus forgave his enemies because he recognized the necessity of their abuses and betrayals for his call. In the recently discovered Gospel of Judas, Jesus says to Judas just before he turned Christ over to the religious authorities, "You will sacrifice the man who clothes me." In other words, Judas's act of betrayal was recognized as part of Jesus' call and destiny. Even the horrific act of betrayal contained an element of perfect guidance. No wonder Jesus could bless his enemies.

According to John's Gospel, Jesus made an enigmatic statement about the work of what he called the 'Holy Spirit' when he said, "And when He comes, He will convince the world and bring demonstration to it through sin (missing the mark) and about uprightness of heart and discerning what is true and false." (John 16:7-8) Without getting stuck in the mire of sectarian interpretations, the general thrust of this passage indicates that the Holy Spirit would use even 'negative' emotions and experiences as means for revelation and insight. In other words, even 'sin' or the 'bad stuff' was part of the spiritual process.

Jesus told a story we have labled "The Prodigal Son", about a young man who wastes his inheritance on drunkeness and sexual promiscuity. The boy ends up broke, broken and working on a farm feeding swill to a herd of pigs. It is in the pig sty that he 'comes to his senses' and decides to return home and apologize to his father. One point of the parable is that revelatory wisdom often comes to us in those times we are knee deep in pig manure and table scraps. A mind filled with resentment is an opportunity to 'come to our senses'.


As an evangelical minister, I had a secretary who petitioned the church board to fire me for being too 'New Age'. She had caught me reading Shirley McClain's book, Out On A Limb. I felt a deep hatred for my betrayer and no matter how hard I tried to forgive her, resentment kept bringing her image and action to mind. I released and forgave her over and over but she kept coming back to roost in my mind. In a moment of insight, I realized that she was Spirit's appointed agent of my destiny. It was time for me to leave the church. She helped sacrifice the 'man that clothed me', that is, the old clothing of an evangelical minister that no longer served me. It was time for a new set of soul clothes. It was time to sacrifice that old aspect of my self.

Joseph of the Old Testament wore two coats. Both were violently torn off by others in order to further his perfect destiny. First, his brothers ripped his 'coat of many colors' off of him and sold him into slavery. Later, the mistress of the house in which he served ripped another garment off of him when she falsely accused him of rape. Both of these 'strippings' came as shocking betrayals and bitter offenses, each unjust and painful. Both of these 'sheddings' moved him into his destiny as Israel's deliverer.

I believe that we will be revisited for years or even decades by old wounds, no matter how often we try to forgive or release them, until we find the kernel of divine guidance in the deeds of our 'enemies'. Life is a series of shedding old layers of soul, like a snake crawling out of old skin.


In the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche (Soul), Psyche must cross a turbulent river, gather golden wool from wild violent rams and weave a new coat from the strands of valuable fleece. With the help of Eros, Psyche risks her life and succeeds. Each of us at various junctures in our lives stands psychologically at rivers of resentment andlook across into fields of violent feelings and hurtful thoughts. There is golden wool to be gathered and a new coat to be made from these periods and events if we want to move forward.

It may take years to find the gold, but once it is found, the forgiveness arrives effortlessly. If you are struggling to forgive an ex-spouse, a supervisor, an in-law or any other human being or organization that has 'betrayed' you - there is a good chance you have not yet recognized the act of destiny in the painful hurt. This does not excuse their action or negate your pain and grief. But if you can realize that even the 'negative' emotions are part of the soul-making Universe, it allows that possibility that even resentment is a gift that continually calls you back to the place of pain to find the gift for your destiny in an intelligent Cosmos.

If, as some contend, the Universe is in a conspiracy for your good, that means there is a con-spiring (with spiriting) that utilizes all events to weave the tapestry of your destiny. Grieve the injury, seek justice if there has been a criminal offense, weep and rage if need be - then look for the Divine Gift of gold in the avalanche of dirt and debris under which you find yourself. Just as meteor impacts, tsunamis and volcanoes rearrange planetary geography into fascinating new shapes, so too do psychological 'disasters' mold and restructure our individual soul-scapes in keeping with our personal destiny and unique soul-image.

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