Family resentments become more pronounced on the holidays, causing awkwardness and pain to everyone. Avid readers of advice columns know that pretty much everybody has lasting resentments against those they think have wronged them. Some people nurture their family resentments for decades, creating such bad feelings that holidays become times of terrible emotional turmoil and stress. They ask for help to get their loved ones to shape up. Good luck with that.
Who’s Naughty And Who’s Nice
Feelings are powerful. We want to be loved and cherished but often it feels like “others” are getting in the way of our feeling happy and satisfied. “They’re” making “us” unhappy and that breeds rage. And the way we humans keep rage and negative feelings alive is by making lists of all the wrongs done to us, constantly reviewing those lists at every reminder of the offending person(s). And adding new offenses to the list.
Family Resentments Are Weeds We Don’t See
What is our part in the creation and perpetuation of grievances both old ones from childhood and new ones in new relationships just cropping up now? Often we don’t see it, can’t see it and feel even angrier when other try to suggest there may be another point of view or another way to respond, or act. Everyone and anyone can be guilty of faulty self-awareness. But whoever is at fault resentment is like mold: it just keeps growing.
How To Stop It
Breaking that cycle of living with a list of family resentments is incredibly difficult. But it doesn’t matter whether others have been wrong, or lazy or greedy or hurtful. The only way to feel better is to dump the family resentment and move on. Do we have control of our own ability to feel better? Yes, we do. Here’s a miracle story that shows how forgetting the list can work when an opportunity knocks.
Nell and David, a sister and brother who had been close growing up, hadn’t spoken for 23 years since the death of their father. Their children grew up not knowing each other and both bad-mouthed each other to family members. The animosity between them was so great, lasting and toxic it seemed that nothing could bring them together. But then something surprising changed everything. Sobriety. Nell’s family was already in recovery. And David got sober. David didn’t know that sobriety could fix one of his greatest regrets. But it did. His new sobriety brought out emotions that he hadn’t been able to feel or share, and he was open to taking the chance of trying to make peace with his sister after all those bitter years. When a wedding offered the opportunity for Nel and her children and David and his children to sit together, the family all knew they wanted each other back. David showed courage in saying he missed Nell and was sorry for what happened between them. He did it without knowing if Nell could accept his apology. But she did. The entire family rejoiced. The cousins had a lot to do with it, but the brother and sister had to be willing to listen put their beefs aside and start again. You can’t control other people’s responses, but tearing up your list of family resentments will make you feel better.