Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Extinguishing the Flames of Resentment

Sarah Chana Radcliffe M.ED., C.PSYCH.ASSOC.

Your best friend betrayed you, and you can’t bring yourself to talk to her. Or maybe you still hear the stinging words of your sister years later — or your father, your daughter-in-law, your husband. Those closest to us have the ability to hurt us more than anyone else. But by withholding forgiveness, we risk harming ourselves even more. Learn why — and how — to let go and finally heal.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

During this season of forgiveness, we ask Hashem to forgive us for all of our transgressions, flaws, and failings. Because we know He loves us, we trust that He will grant this forgiveness so we can move forward with a clean slate and a fresh start.

Sure, the days leading up to the formal moments of forgiveness are rife with guilt and anguish. But the resultant introspection is what helps us make resolutions for positive change. And fortunately we don’t have to punish ourselves forever. Despite our human weaknesses, we can do teshuvah and come out of this season feeling whole and good.

Not so for our personal enemies. We don’t let them off the hook so easily.

People hurt each other in so many different and painful ways: betrayals, insults, lies, slander, gossip, judgment, rejection, abuse, abandonment, neglect, and more. We’ve all gone through it. But when we’re the guilty ones, we know it was unavoidable, accidental, or understandable. After all, we’re good people.

When someone hurts us, however, we know it’s because he’s defective or evil and wants to hurt us. Not only do we seek to protect ourselves from future harm, we often seek revenge as well. The “nicer” ones among us would never inflict direct injury, but we might pass the assignment along to Hashem, announcing that “Hashem will take care of it.” It’s hard for us to let go. Forgiveness feels like weakness, opening us to future attack. It feels wrong.


Impossible to Forgive

Certain offenses seem unforgivable, even for those who are naturally forgiving. Beverly Flanigan, author of Forgiving the Unforgivable identifies five major characteristics of an “unforgivable crime”:

1. It starts with a single event that is a betrayal.

2. The offender is an intimate member of the person’s relationship circle, not a stranger.

3. It is a moral wound — that is, it runs contrary to our principles of right and wrong.

4. It assaults a person’s most fundamental assumptions and beliefs.

5. It is deeply personal (and therefore uniquely experienced).

Leah’s story typifies an “unforgivable” offense:

My husband and I had been married for 20 years when I developed cancer. I always thought that our marriage was a good one. To say I was shocked at what happened is a huge understatement. As I was preparing to leave for a chemotherapy treatment one day, he turned to me and said that I was a drain on his energy and resources and he was moving out. And just like that, he was gone.

Leah’s experience shattered her world. She felt like she didn’t know anything anymore. How could her husband become someone she didn’t even recognize? How could he turn on her and abandon her when she was already so vulnerable? It was too much for her to process and certainly too much for her to recover from


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"