The Opposite of Resentment

Along with trust there must be gratitude — the opposite of resentment.  Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift.  My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve.  It always manifests itself in envy.

Gratitude, however, goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift.  In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline.  The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.  I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.  It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.  I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness.  I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly.  I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.

— Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 85

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