“I have been stuck in this old resentment for months. When am I going to be over this?” – a perplexing and painful question that I often hear from clients.

The first step is to make sure you are not beating yourself up for having old resentments! From a Zen perspective, if the issue continues to be an issue, or continues to arise, there is some part of it that still needs attention or is not yet resolved. Simply slow down, without any judgment on yourself or anyone else, try to see what part of this old issue is still attempting to get your attention.

A great deal of resentment comes from judgment. When you choose to judge someone else, you need to understand that your judgment about that person does not constitute a truth. If you choose to judge someone and access them as being selfish, for instance, – your judgment does not prove or define that person as a selfish person. In fact, it doesn’t change who they are a wit. However, your judgment does prove one thing, and that is you have the capacity to be a judgmental person. So step one is to get out of the illusion that your judgment is somehow hurting or getting back at the other person. It’s really only hurting you.

A person who is unable to forgive may have a sense of entitlement – a belief that you have the right to what you want or need regardless of who the other person is or what others want or need. You may have the belief that your partner, friend or family member should give up himself or herself to be who you need them to be. This however requires a perception that you are somehow fundamentally superior.

Holding back forgiveness can also be because one feels fundamentally inferior and refuses to forgive in order to maintain power. It’s about a power struggle. Beneath that arrogance and entitlement is really the terror of ridicule, rejection or abandonment. There is arrogance/control on our part for seeking forgiveness from someone who we know is not yet awake enough to give it. Chances are, you are not apt to get forgiveness from an unconscious person.

Another possibility about a lack of forgiveness or holding on to resentments is an unwillingness to own your own part in the issue. As long as we continue to project blame and shame on to another, we are in the illusion that there is something to forgive! Who is it that elected to dance with this person, stay in it with him or her, be co-opted into bad behavior or give our self up? This is about believing we have no personal responsibility or culpability. The lack of forgiveness oozes out in the form of anger, resentment, fear, sniping, being critical and blaming.

The good news is that for conscious or awake people there is great joy in taking personal responsibility because that = growth and aliveness. We get the lesson. People who are not conscious are more invested in being right, being in control or being in a position of authority and they may perceive taking personal responsibility as weakness.

Actually, the opposite is true. The “V” word, vulnerability, indicates a place of great power, teachability, openness to all things, willingness to change, = empowered.

Just remember that the pursuit of power without reverence or respect for the other person’s reality or pain is arrogance. Perhaps that person needs that experience on his or her path in order to bump to the next level. How many of you would be willing to give up all your lessons in life that have resulted in you being who you are today?

Courage is the essential core element of character. If you cannot own your mistakes – you cannot grow, You can’t have real relationship! In addition, you will never be impeccable in your integrity or able to stand in the power of your spirit. When you are unwilling to admit your mistakes, you are standing in your own ego, needing to be right. Einstein says, “Mistakes are simply the product of a courageous soul and an inquiring mind.”

You cannot control life or the people in it. You can ONLY have control over YOUR RESPONSE to what rises before you in life and what the people in your life do. Life happens – people are people and they make mistakes that grieve your spirit, and even more so their own. You will never stop that process. What you do with it – how you respond defines your level of awareness and your character. People will disappoint you – life may disappoint you – your job is to not disappoint your own self.

A lack of forgiveness may also be that we have not had the courage or the support to resolve the pain that we are still holding inside over the issue. When you are unwilling to resolve the pain and heal it – you stand in judgment or hold the other person responsible for that pain as a way of distancing from your hurt feelings. “Well she really hurt me”, is vastly different from “I really hurt myself by wanting something from her that she was not willing or able to give me.” Or, “I set myself up for hurt by emotionally leaving the relationship first.” Or,” I knew clearly who this person was and I chose to dance with him or her anyway.”

The final piece in our unwillingness to move into forgiveness is a lack of faith in ourselves or a fear about not being able to create what we really want. Rather than to go out and get our needs met or create what we say we want, it is easier to blame others for not giving it to us. It keeps us from going forward.

No one is responsible for your happiness, the quality of your life or the amount of love in it – except you! If your life is not what you want it to be, ask yourself “Why am I not giving myself what I need and want?” Why am I staying at a job that is not right? Why am I staying in a relationship with a substance abuser or any perpetrator? Why am I willing to be with someone who refuses to connect deeply with me? Most of the time the answer to that is FEAR!

Forgiveness does not mean you are condoning bad behavior. Forgiveness does not mean that you believe what the other person did was right. In fact, you may even have to leave that person or choose not to dance with him or her. However, you do so with unconditional love and positive regard for the painful lessons that person is experiencing on his or her path. We are all going to end up with the same level of awareness. Some of us are just taking detours.

Forgiveness means that you are healing the emotions inside of yourself that are not in alignment with your own spirit. Forgiveness means that you are able to see that the other person is a human being learning incredibly hard lessons about how to be spirit.

One last thing. Many of you may have someone you need to get to peace with that is not available to talk to you – because they have died or are no longer willing. Do a ritual, write a letter and burn it in your backyard, give yourself release and relief. After all, forgiveness is more about you than anyone else anyway.

© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013. All rights reserved. No part of the intellectual property of Dr. Dina Evan may be reproduced, placed on mechanical retrieval system, transmitted in any form by electronic, video, laser, mechanical photocopy, recording means or otherwise in part or in whole, without written permission of the author. Contents are fully copyrighted and may not be owned by any other individual or organization.