“Resentments are like butterflies we keep in a box, locked-up tight” it was being explained to me. “You have to visualize opening the box and bringing the butterfly out. You open your hand and watch it fly away.”
‘Yeah, and then me and the herald Angels will sing “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” while Hershey kisses and dollar bills fall from the sky’ I remember thinking as I dismissed this psycho-babble in my mind.
“Look, using that analogy, here’s how it works for me” I explained. “I take the resentment- the butterfly- out of the box, open my hand, and watch it float away.
And then I decide I might want to keep it a bit longer and grab the butterfly net and put it back in the box and then bury it in the backyard, but I dig it up often and play with it.”
“How, how do I get to where I can let it go?” I pleaded.
“Throw away the butterfly net.”
Resentments are complex creatures- they are not a single issue emotion like jealousy, revenge, or anger- but rather a blending of emotion, reasoning, and perception of an offense. The most ensnaring thing about a resentment is it is often wrapped in a justification- “I am right to feel this way, because they did me wrong!” And often that is true.
When I began my recovery from alcoholism, one of the things that I was constantly told, was that resentments are the biggest reason alcoholics fail to stay sober.
I had a couple of good resentments, one especially, that I was fond of. I didn’t see how I could possibly forgive that person and I didn’t feel like they deserved it. (That justified factor).
A technique was suggested to me: Pray for that person everyday for 30 days, and the resentment would fade. It had to be a sincere prayer; not some mumbled, rehearsed incantation- but a genuine, sincere prayer. Start simple, pray that person has/will develop a relationship with God. Pray that God will help them in their life.
I tried it out, and after a couple of weeks, I realized it was starting to work!
So I stopped.
But, eventually, I was ready to watch that butterfly fly and I did. It is wonderful to be free from the negativity, hate, and powerlessness. And that’s the key. When you place the blame for your troubles on someone or something else, then you are convincing yourself that the solution to your problem is with someone or something else.
I once let Bill Clinton have great control over me. I could not stand him and everyday I would find myself enraged or embittered by something he said or did. I could not understand how everybody couldn’t see what a jerk he was.
And then one day I realized that Bill Clinton didn’t know who I was. No matter how loud or outraged I got, he would never know it. I did not factor into anything he did. He did not have any idea he offended me, and if he did, he wouldn’t care.
Bill Clinton was not ruining my life- I was. It was all on me.
Jesus was asked how many times we have to forgive somebody. At what point can we say “I don’t have to keep forgiving you.” His answer was “seventy times seven”- or in other words, every time. We are required to forgive everyone for everything, every time. And, that vengeance belongs to the Lord.
That is not a restriction, an unreasonable command to be the better person, or a denial of the satisfaction we would think to obtain by getting back at someone. No, the command to forgive- to let it go- is for our benefit.
We keep the power. We are free from negativity. We give it to the man upstairs, and he takes it. Whatever happened, it is not our problem anymore.
And eventually you realize that the easiest way to get rid of a resentment, is to never let it start.
Open your hand and watch it fly away. Let go and let God.