Untangling the web

“Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” (Sir Walter Scott)

My experience with resentments is that I have carried way too many of them for way too long. I resented people who hurt me and abused me. I resented people who lied to me and used me. I resented people who tried to tell me the truth when I didn’t want to hear it. I resented people who scoffed at me or didn’t take me seriously.

If it were possible to resent someone for some reason, I’ve done it.

We all get to choose whether to resent others. I chose to do that. For a long time.

What I didn’t realize when I was in my phase of harboring resentments is the tangled web I was weaving between resentment, unforgiveness, expectations, and my own wrongdoings. I also didn’t realize that creating a web takes lots of time and energy. And once I had created my web, I got stuck in it myself, and that was certainly never my intention.

When I choose to harbor unforgiveness and resentment, and when I let resentments grow and burrow into me, they never lead to a positive outcome. The results are typically things like restless sleep, high blood pressure, clenching my jaw, obsessive thoughts, inability to concentrate at work. Or I might notice I have a hateful attitude towards others, that I cut others off who are trying to speak, that I distance myself way too much, that I stop giving people a chance to redeem themselves at all, and that I experience lack of spiritual peace and serenity.

None of these outcomes of resentment are things I desire. Not one.

My expectations typically initiate the weaving process. I expect you to be a decent human being and treat me well. While that may sound like a reasonable expectation, it might not be realistic. If I expect someone who is sick mentally, emotionally, or psychologically to treat me well, I’m setting myself up for disappointment and pain.

This leads me to a crossroads: should I forgive that sick person for hurting me, or should I hold onto that pain a little longer?

If I hold onto it, I spin that web a little tighter. My unforgiveness grows into resentment.

The web gets sticky and intricate.

Thankfully, though, God has shown me how to untangle it all–how to untangle myself–through steps in recovery and through spiritual footwork.

One way I untangle the web of unforgiveness and resentment is by letting go of resentments and making amends. I have made amends for wrongs I’ve done. But I’ve also made amends for resentments I carried because it’s not my place to carry resentments and unforgiveness. I’m not God. I don’t get to decide who deserves forgiveness and who doesn’t.

Even if the harm done to me really occurred, and it’s not just my skewed perception, the sick person ultimately has a God problem, so they have issues to work out spiritually. That person’s spiritual problem has nothing to do with me unless I choose to remain entangled with that person.

I must choose to let go so the resentment and unforgiveness doesn’t spin and fester. If it does, it will keep hurting me more than the initial offense. 

It’s amazing the mileage you can get playing the victim, isn’t it? I can speak to this candidly because it’s how I lived for a long time. You get sympathy, which feels good sometimes, especially if you didn’t get compassion or sympathy as a child. When you play the victim, you have an excuse for everything. You can get away with pretty bad behavior. It’s the perfect justification and rationalization tool.

When I choose to view my life through a victim lens, I am free from all responsibility for outcomes.

But this isn’t freedom. It’s chains. It’s remaining chained to the very thing I resent. It’s remaining chained to the person who did the thing I resent. It’s wrapping myself up in chains which God already unraveled for me.

The only way I have been able to truly let go of hurts and resentments is by working the Twelve Steps and by growing in awareness over time so I can take preventive action rather than operating in damage control mode. Recognizing spiteful feelings or haughty feelings right at the get go helps me realize I need to start praying right then to forgive someone or that I need to take other action.

One of the best detanglers for those of us who weave webs of resentment is detachment. Detachment can move me toward letting go and letting God, and it presents further pain and resentment. I typically only get hurt if I’m entangled with someone who is sick. I get resentful of sick people when I’m enmeshed with them, when I’m too close. I get that unhealthy, sick, sticky mess on me.

If I detach and spend less time connected to sticky situations and people, I can’t get messy. I stay free and clean. I have serenity.

It’s healthy for me to set boundaries and protect my own serenity, and I have to be willing to do that even if other people don’t understand what I’m doing at the time. I have to set boundaries even if I don’t feel like it.

Ultimately God asks us to love others. Not only that, but to love other people in the same way Jesus Christ loves them. That’s difficult to do. But it’s impossible to do if we’re tangled up in webs of unforgiveness and resentment.

My prayer for you during this season of gratitude and thanksgiving is that you will take steps to disengage, detach, and untangle a web holding you down and preventing you from being who God wants you to be.

He wants you to be free.

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