Don't Bring Old
Resentment to the Thanksgiving Table
Source: The Kansas City Star, Mo.
For too many families, the traditional Thanksgiving
dinner menu features savory turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes and
bitter resentment. Too often, bickering and unresolved hostility
spoil holiday gatherings.
But Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks, not for giving family
members grief for ancient wrongs. What's called for is a heaping
helping of forgiveness.
Grown children, this means you. You need to forgive your parents.
Easier said then done, granted. But for the sake of yourself, your
parents, and, perhaps most importantly, your own kids - not to
mention a more enjoyable Thanksgiving meal - you need to let your
folks off the hook for all their parenting sins.
"Carrying resentments is like taking poison and waiting for the
other person to die," says Rachel Green, an Australia-based
consultant in inter personal communications. Harboring resentment
toward others hurts you most.
Referring to research that links anger with heart disease, Green
points out that there are psychological and physical costs to
hanging on to old hurts.
"The resentment hardens your heart," she says. "And possibly your
blood vessels, too. It damages you, not them. Forgiveness is
If you are finding it difficult to get past things your parents did
or didn't do, Green, who wrote the book "Happiness in Midlife,"
suggests asking yourself, "Why not forgive?"
"What is the danger in forgiving?" she asks. "It doesn't mean you
condone or approve of what happened, nor does it mean you have to
forget what happened. What it does mean is that you allow greater
happiness into your own life."
Dan Neuharth, author of "If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make
Peace With Your Past and Take Your Place in the World," said it's a
myth that forgiveness is done only for the sake of others.
"Forgiveness is most freeing when it is done for you," he says.
"Your goal is to find greater peace and relationships that nurture
On the Web site www.partnershipforlearning.org, teacher and writer
Lisamarie Sanders notes: "Many of the things our parents do are
exactly what their parents did. And if you don't make a conscious
effort to break the mold, you may end up repeating the patterns with
your own children."
Sanders quotes Patty Roth, a family therapist, who says: "In
families there are patterns that are passed down through
generations. These patterns are so strong that we tend to revert to
the negative parts of the old patterns. Even if you try a lot of
things and feel you're not getting anywhere, don't give up. It is
such an important relationship, you really need to keep plugging
The need to achieve harmony with our parents is fundamental, no
matter how grievous the pain they may have caused. Harold
Bloomfield, author of "Making Peace With Your Parents," says
parental love is a "core need." He also says that when people cling
to resentment they surrender control over their emotional
"You have control over your own thoughts, behaviors and attitudes,"
Roth says. "Examine and control what you can."
Sounds like a recipe for a better holiday get-together.
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