Are You An “ANGRY FORGIVER” Suffering From “RESENTMENT FLU”…John Page Burton

If you have spent any time in or around the personal development arena you have probably heard the term “angry giver”. This term is used to describe the type of person who readily gives their time, treasure and talent to everyone around them but rarely does anything to nurture themselves. They smile as they busily meet the needs of everyone else and “proudly” state that “they are the only one who can be trusted to perform the task at hand”. Their pasted on smiles and tired sighs are feeble attempts to mask the anger they feel inside. They are ANGRY because they know they are allowing their own fear and insecurity to keep them from honoring their desires and dreams. I have also come to believe that many “angry givers” are also “angry forgivers”….Let me explain.

WHEN WORDS of FORGIVENESS JUST DON’T CUT IT…

In my coaching practice I work with numerous clients who have experienced a significant degree of emotional and in some cases extreme physical pain. Most attribute the root cause of their pain to parents, siblings, spouses, teachers, relatives or someone else entrusted to protect them from harm that failed to do so. At some point, most of my clients have been encouraged to first forgive themselves and then forgive their “betrayers”. They have been led to believe that they will not be able to begin their healing process until they speak WORDS of forgiveness. As someone who has experienced a reasonable amount of life pain, I contend that simply speaking WORDS of forgiveness will not create inner peace. We must give ourselves permission to confront and release our ANGER! I did not begin healing the wounds from my past until I OWNED and processed my true feelings. Over the years, I have met and continue to meet people who much like myself were “ANGRY FORGIVERS”. We spoke our words of forgiveness when we were around our church brethren, spiritual teachers and guidance counselors but on the inside we remained angry and resentful. Many of us even publicly declared that we had forgiven ourselves and our “betrayers” yet routinely drank or drugged to numb our pain and anger. Anger has the potential to infect every area of our lives and therefore we must quit deceiving ourselves and confront our “TIRED STORY.

THE “TIRED STORY”…

The majority of our pain and suffering is based on a “tired story” that we continue to tell ourselves. Each time we tell our story it gains more traction. Our story is based solely on OUR perspective and more than likely it took place many years ago. Many of the “main characters” from our story are old or dead yet we still hold them responsible and BLAME them for everything we deem “wrong” in our current reality. Everyone around us suffers as a consequence of our “tired story”. Remember, when we cast BLAME we effectively shut out the perspective of anyone else. As adults we often blame our parents for the many ways “they wronged us” during childhood. For years, I blamed my father for my “unhappy” childhood. Finally, toward the end of my fathers life we had an open, honest conversation. My father shared HIS perspective on the events of my “unhappy” childhood and as a result of our conversation I effectively laid my “tired story” to rest. ***We also tend to cast blame on those who are not present to defend themselves. After all, if they were present our blame might not hold up to scrutiny.

ORIGINS of ANGER…

We have ALL had experiences we would just as soon forget. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Many of us were effected by the physically or verbally abusive parent, the cheating spouse, the perverted teacher or the drama that unfolded with an alcoholic parent or spouse. All of these scenarios can make a profound impact on our psyche. These experiences also leave us feeling hurt and angry. We may have become obsessed with revenge, become sick with resentment flu or even taken aggressive steps toward hurting the other person. When we experience these emotions we are not in forgiveness mode but rather revenge mode…we want our “betrayer” to pay for hurting us! When we harbor anger and resentment yet proclaim forgiveness we are doing significant emotional harm to ourselves. We are in reality, “ANGRY FORGIVERS”!!!

3 STRATEGIES TO HELP US LET GO of OUR ANGER & TRULY FORGIVE…

1. Re-direct the blame. Recently, Tony Robbins shared something that really hit home.
He proposed that rather than continuing to go through life blaming our “betrayers” for what they did “to us” we would be wise to begin blaming them for what they did “FOR us”. For example, because of a horrific predatory experience at the hands of her father, one of my clients now blames her father for teaching her to be more protective and aware around her own children. Rather than blame her mother for leaving her alone for several days at a time, another client now blames her mother for teaching her to be a self sufficient women. Rather than blaming her overweight father for dying when she was eight years old, another client now blames her father for leading her to the healthy lifestyle she now maintains for herself and her children. Tony refers to this as CONSCIOUS BLAMING. Conscious blaming allows us the FREEDOM to make peace with our past challenges rather than dwell in our “TIRED STORY”.

2. Shift Your Perspective. Remember, our anger originated from a past experience. I would contend that in the present moment most of us are quite content. The fastest way to shift out of anger and resentment is to view it from a different perspective. Let’s say for example that during childhood I resented my brother Bob for getting most of my mom and dads attention. I was angry toward my parents for favoring him. Last week I got angry with my mom and finally told her how I felt. My mother explained…”I’m so sorry you felt that way and have been angry with us for so many years. We didn’t know it at the time but your brother Bob had what is now known as Attention Deficit Disorder. It was all we could do to keep up with him. I’m sorry if you felt that you were not important to us, it was just so overwhelming”.
This conversation would more than likely shift our perspective allowing our anger to subside. I encourage my clients to first seek to understand before demanding to be understood.

3. GET PISSED! Tell them how you really feel! The longer we hold things in the more damage we do to our physical and emotional health. With this being said, there are ways to release our anger without creating more psychic drama. I encourage my clients to write “the letter they never send”. In this letter, directed to the object of their anger, I encourage them to put it all on the table, word for word… really let them have it!!! I encourage them to read it out loud (preferably in front of a mirror) emphasizing their anger. When they are done, I ask them to rip up the letter and flush it down the toilet. They have effectively said what needed to be said and have flushed the drama out of their life. In another exercise I will ask a client to sit in a chair that is directly across from an empty chair. I encourage my client to visualize that the object of their anger is sitting directly across from them. I encourage the client to hold nothing back, telling them exactly how they feel about the betrayal. This usually proves to be a very emotional exercise but the result has a very cleansing effect. These are just two of many methods that can help us release our anger and truly move us toward GENUINE forgiveness.

It is important to keep in mind that every person who shows up in our lives has been placed there to play the exact role we need them to play at the time. The only way we can maintain a depressed state is if we continue to focus solely on OURSELVES. Change your focus…change your life!

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

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6 thoughts on “Are You An “ANGRY FORGIVER” Suffering From “RESENTMENT FLU”…John Page Burton

      • “Getting pissed” is a much better alternative than holding in and festering in our anger. Many people confuse anger as an unhealthy emotion when in fact “constructive” anger can be very healing. I allowed myself to get angry last night. The result, was a release, new clarity followed by action. Wouldn’t have achieved this result if I had continued to hold it in. Just my take!

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  1. “The only way we can maintain a depressed state is if we continue to focus solely on ourselves.” That is a powerful insight! Thanks John.

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