We could subtitle this tool: Managing My Memories.
In an earlier lesson we learned we can forgive even though we cannot forget. It was pointed out that through prompting or provocation we will recall almost all that our five senses, seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting, have stored in our memory banks.
It is a good thing we can do this because by this means we mature. But if we keep recalling unresolved anger and resentments we will remain in an unsettled state of frustration.
At this juncture in the problem solving process we must exercise a high level of maturity by facing the fact our life cannot be made better by getting all the people around us, and all the circumstances facing us, to do right and be right. We built our own walls of resentment; therefore, we are the only one who can take them down i.e., exercise personal responsibility.
The only person Tom Lacy can change is Tom Lacy. The only way I can change my circumstances is to make better choices. Tom Lacy is free to do whatever he chooses provided there is no one to stop him. But, Tom Lacy is not free to choose the consequences of his choices. We must learn to make better choices.
If you followed the lesson plan you have before you a list of your unresolved anger and resentments in the following categories: father, mother, childhood experiences, family, marriage (yours or marriage in general), school or job, and God. . You are now ready to manage your memories.
Step One: Consider your entire list of resentments in all categories. As you reflect on your list decide which one is your #1 Resentment out of all the categories. Out of your list what upsets you most?
After making this selection ask yourself, “Am I transferring this resentment to others.” Remember, we learned that anger wants someone else to pay. Anger has an agenda, and we perpetuate that agenda by transferring our anger to others.
Step Two: As you consider your #1 Resentment does it carry over to other resentments you harbor? Make a list of those patterns. If there is a carry over from one person to another or from one circumstance to another this process lays the foundation for developing patterns of behavior. To break a behavior-controlling pattern one must recognize it exists.
We say, “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.” The opposite is true: If it is broke fix yourself.” I often quote Pogo who said, “We have met the enemy, and it is us!”
Step Three: After completing this examination you have before you a list of behavior patterns. Answer this question: Is your unresolved anger and resentment provoked by individuals or circumstances? We project anger toward people whereas circumstances test our endurance and often foster our frustrations.
Anger is the Number One feeling out of control in people who have a difficult time controlling their feelings. The Number One resentment is Performance Based Acceptance; that is to say, they say, if you perform the way I want you to I’ll accept you; but if you don’t I won’t.
Step Four. Resentments provoked by an individual must first be reconciled within one’s self. Earlier we learned the tool: Attack the Problem and Not the Person. This is not easy to do, but it is doable. We need to develop a clear mind-set that will allow us to do so.
Here is a mind-changing, mood-altering exercise.
As a Believer, think of the worst thing you have ever done. No doubt, God would probably see it as sin. First John 1:9 states plainly: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Since God has forgiven me how can I not forgive another? Forgiving is the first step to reconciliation between God and man and between man and man.
Circumstances are what they are. Sometimes we can change them; sometimes we cannot. Sometimes we can avoid them; sometimes we cannot. Again, we need to develop a clear mind-set that will allow us to take circumstances as they come. This is a doable test of fortitude that God is able to supplement.
Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches God needs to be actively involved in our lives at this point of the problem-solving process: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
It is difficult, at best, to change others or our circumstances in general. It is easier to change our self by understanding the patterns controlling us. As we recognize patterns from our personally developed inventory of unresolved anger and resentments commit that pattern to God in prayer and let Him direct your path and break it.
As a counselor, I have always maintained, it is not up to me to tell a counselee what is wrong with them. It is up to them to tell me what they are struggling with. They do so by writing their resentments out in an organized To Do List, analyzing it and following a Bible-based plan toward resolution. I teach the plan. They practice the plan.
With this as a background, next time we’ll answer three questions:
- Whose problem is it?
- Did I cause it?
- Can I help?
Rev. Thomas (Tom) C. Lacy, Advisory Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance and Founder and Director, of New Hope Counseling Service.