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Hatred and resentment – poison that kills from inside

While Michaela van Nierop continues to work through the trauma of being the victim of a sexual assault, she is trying to move on. She seeks the answers to so many emotions, including resentment, forgiveness and how to deal with a loved one’s betrayal.

In my previous article, I spoke about how I had to learn how to stop turning anger into guilt. I had to learn to create boundaries and communicate these effectively.

Another by-product of anger is resentment. I have often been asked if I harbour any resentment or hatred for any of the hurt caused by the sexual assault that I faced, or even other times when family members have hurt me deeply Although I have felt those feelings start to stir up, I have never wanted to let them control me. I do not see the point in resentment and hate.

Moving on from trauma inflicted by a loved one

The whole anecdote that “being angry with someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die” could not be more true. Resentment and hatred are more likely to destroy me than the target of my anger. When you have been hurt on a very intimate level by a stranger, it is very easy to turn that feeling into resentment or hate. But what if it is someone you know who hurts you on that deep intimate level. Someone you trust?

Resentment and hatred are more likely to destroy me than the target of my anger.

Then things become a little bit more complicated. Do you just write them off? Do you talk to them? Do you ignore the incident and pretend it never happened? How do you think about them afterwards? Can you still maintain your relationship even though you are hurt and traumatised?

It is really hard to reconcile the person you love with trauma they have inflicted. You know the person isn’t bad and didn’t mean to hurt you. Also, how do you ignore all the good times you’ve had and the good things they have done. When I talk to people about my struggles with anger, they sometimes bring up the story of how Jesus lost his temper in the temple and threw a table over. That story helped me to understand several things about that emotion. Firstly, we know that Jesus never sinned, but was also completely human. Therefore, anger is a completely normal part of being human.

How we process that anger and some of the resentment it generates is the hard part, especially when it comes to family or people who are close to us. We are also more likely to lash out at family members in a way we don’t with colleagues or friends. Pain almost always comes from pain. When you lose your temper with a loved one and say something hurtful you don’t mean, more often than not, it’s because you’ve had a bad day, they’ve touched a raw spot, and you say something without thinking. Almost inevitably we react by lashing out.

Hating the actions, but not the person

If we can understand this about each other, while remaining assertive and forgiving, it is easier to forgive them and not become resentful. I have also realised that you can hate the actions of people, while not hating the person. I think that is why anger might be seen as sin and why the story of Jesus getting angry in the temple is often misinterpreted. Jesus didn’t hate the people who were selling things in the temple grounds. What he was really condemning was the desecration of his Father’s house.

I have also realised that you can hate the actions of people, while not hating the person.

I think that God might feel the same way about us at times. He may hate what we do, but He can never hate us. As humans, we are naturally sinful because we are not perfect. This imperfection may lead us to act in ways that hurt others. Just as others hurt us. None of us is perfect. We all do things we are not proud of. Unfortunately sometimes our actions affect other people. Separating the action from the person might make it easier to forgive.

Setting firm boundaries

This is where it is important to remember to set boundaries. Loving someone who has hurt you is hard and I am still learning how to do it. But there is a difference between understanding where they are coming from, and allowing them to cross your boundaries again.

Hate and resentment are difficult emotions to deal with because they come from underlying pain. Unfortunately there is no recipe or quick fix for this. But at the end of the day, by hating or resenting someone you are really only hurting yourself more.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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