August 2017 - Carrying the hot rock of resentment

Carrying the hot rock of resentment

Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist minister born in 1834, was the Pastor of the New Park Street Chapel in London for 38 years. The story goes, when attending a Christian conference, he heard a man professing that he had attained sinless perfection. The next morning, at breakfast, Spurgeon is said to have poured a jug of milk over his head, and everyone observed how his sinless perfection soon left him!

Only a fool would think themselves perfect, not least those who live their lives publicly. But even in the privacy of our own hearts we might know the pits we fall into. St Paul writes, not necessarily in a particular spiritual way: “I do not do the good I want, but instead I do what I hate!” And only a few people might dare to say that it is otherwise.

Good and bad, right and wrong – perhaps we can judge our actions ourselves. But thoughts or feelings are, I would suggest, fairly neutral. “I shouldn't feel like this”, or “I shouldn't let that thought come in to my head”. Well, feelings just are, and thoughts simply appear. All we can do is name them and accept them. However, it is quite a different state of affairs between observing birds flying around and actually letting them build a nest!

There are those who feel hurt or upset about the actions or words of friends and neighbours. But there are others who will continue to carry the hot rock of resentment within themselves for a long time afterwards. They can't acknowledge it, they can't name it, and they struggle to set it down. They do so, directing their ire and anger towards this person with the wondrous notion that they are causing pain to anyone but themselves!

Forgiving others, as we also seek forgiveness, is not some religious formula – it is good mental and social hygiene. How can we possibly receive something, or be open to others, when our hands and hearts are full of such carefully clutched canker? So next time you are angry and resentful towards your neighbour, do yourself a kindness and remember your own fallibility, and put the rock you are carrying down. You might appreciate the rest.

Nick Bird

your Rector