By Medi-Share member and "Friends Sharing Friends" guest, Peter Rosenberger
Encouragement Series for Caregivers
Resentment seems to be a regular companion for caregivers. Often stemming from a deep-seated belief of obligation, caregivers drive themselves mercilessly with such internal commands such as, “I have to, I must, I’m supposed to, and I need to …” In addition, all too many caregivers allow others to reinforce these beliefs as they become emotional punching bags from family, friends, their loved ones, and even the medical community. It can often seem that everyone in a caregiver’s circle feels a need to critique a caregiver’s job performance—and, sadly, the most vocal critics rarely help at all.
Is it any wonder that so many caring for the sickest among us feel beaten down and discouraged? These negative feelings cannot be suppressed or contained, and will come out—usually in the form of resentment. In flash points, when caregivers feel presumed upon, undervalued, and unappreciated, that resentment forces its way to the surface. Once there, it creates an emotional mess that usually cripples the caregiver far more than it negatively affects others.
"Nothing on earth consumes a man more completely than the passion of resentment."
Struggling through my own caregiving journey, a teachable moment about resentment presented itself in an unusual place. A pianist for even longer than my three decades as a caregiver, I often find myself at the keyboard working out the kinks in my soul. Sitting at the piano, I discovered, however, that the music won’t come if my fists remain clenched with resentment. Something beautiful flowing from my hands and heart requires opening both, along with a willingness to let go of resentment.
Each time my hands open to play something expressive and beautiful on the piano, it signals to my heart that it’s okay to release grudges, slights, or bitterness. While maintaining healthy boundaries between my heart and those who either inadvertently or intentionally trample it, I can let go of the resentments. It’s not easy, but the music flowing from that decision is soothing and healing to my soul—as well as to listeners.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. It simply means we’re willing to take our hands off someone else’s throat. Sometimes, the person we harbor the most resentment towards is ourself—and we cruelly demean our own hearts for allowing us to either get into the circumstances we find ourselves, or for staying in the situation. Regardless of the targets of our resentment, it only serves to gnaw at our own peace of mind and well-being. We serve ourselves (and others) better when we live in a calmer and healthier manner, free of resentments and bitterness.
We all possess the ability to make and enjoy beautiful music and art in our own ways. As caregivers, that beauty is not limited by the harsh circumstances we face and carry, but rather limited only by our unwillingness to let go of resentment.
A goal I’ve set for myself as a caregiver is to one day stand at a grave. While I can’t guarantee outliving my wife and ensuring she and our sons aren’t left to deal with her massive medical challenges without me, I can, however, guarantee a better chance of doing so if I live a healthier life. Part of living a healthier life is avoiding carrying resentment. I don’t want to stand at that grave with clenched fists while feeling resentful at her, others who didn’t help the way I wanted, myself, or at God.
Sitting at the piano I’ve played for a lifetime, I discovered that letting go of resentments often starts with the simple act of opening one’s hand. The heart will follow.
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
Peter Rosenberger, a thirty-year caregiver, hosts a syndicated weekly radio program for family caregivers. www.caregiverswithhope.com
If you would like a FREE copy of Peter's ebook, 7 Caregiver Landmines and How You Can Avoid Them, click the following link.