Sunday, April 15, 2012

Repenting of Resentment

As caregivers it is vital for us to keep our hearts clean of resentment. When we fall to judgmental criticism of our care recipients for the ways they've let us down, we know resentment is having its way with our hearts. 

Resentment creates a sense of entitlement that truly makes us a menace to others.  Terrible sins become possible when we, as the stronger partner in the caregiver/patient relationship, treat our loved ones badly because we feel they deserve it. We place ourselves in the path of the Lord's anger when we fail to exhibit to others the same love and forgiveness He has shown us. 

Today the Lord has brought me to repentance for harboring resentment toward my mother, and in His wisdom He brought the truth to me in a way that made me feel the truth of His reprimand.  

My daughter, Melinda, is married and lives near us. She is expecting her second child in a couple of months, and last evening was suffering from an aching back from carrying groceries.  She was exhausted and uncharacteristically irritable, while I was characteristically sensitive.  Long story short, I got my tender feelings hurt. Tonight I have found myself falling to worriment that my daughter might not admire me or respect me as I want her to do based on her one brief episode of irritation toward me. 

I admire  Melinda so much. She has the spiritual gift of longsuffering, a gift we don't hear very much about these days; but I  believe is one of the most Christlike characteristics a human being can possess.  There is an excellent article by Don Hooser of Good News Magazine here, in which he refers to longsuffering as  "a fusion of grace and power."  This describes my daughter perfectly.  Our Mindy is the blessed buffer of our family, grace personified in the midst of a group of sensitive and more volatile characters; all of us  blessed by her steadfast love and support. 

But I was hurt, and so in my characteristic style I hammered out details of my injury in an email.  As I reread it the Lord touched my heart and said, "These words are not for your daughter. They are for you in relation to your own mother." 

Pretty cool how the Lord got me to write down exactly what I needed to hear.  I am reminded of King David's experience with Nathan the prophet--he didn't recognize his own sin until it was placed before him through an allegory of a sin committed by another (this account is found in 1 Samuel 12:1-13). I trashed the email that was not for my daughter after all, and have kept the thoughts below which are for me, from the Lord.  
I need to see the value of what my mother is able to give to me and let go my judgment of her for the things she is not able (or willing) to do for me (both now and in the past).  I need to be aware and thankful of the blessings I receive through her, even now; eight years into her Alzheimer's diagnosis. 
I pray for grace to accept the mother I've had and to release the mother I wish I'd had. I need to appreciate her for who she is rather than resenting her for her failure to be who I wanted and even needed her to be. I must forgive her for the ways she failed me and honor her for the ways she has blessed me.
I have taken for granted the great blessings God has given me through my mother, and have made her feel I am disappointed in her for what she is not able to be. 
You see, lately I've sinned against my mother by repeating her offenses to others rather than covering them over. This has happened because I've allowed resentment to gain a foothold once again. Mom was hurtful toward me yesterday, but when I complained about her behavior to my husband and daughter I left out the fact that my impatience and resentment toward her had triggered her responses.  I've repented of these sins and I know the Lord has forgiven me.  And I have prayed for my mother.  

I'm ruefully grateful at how skilled the Lord is in bringing me to the repentance I needed today, and  I praise His Name. I am so grateful for his patience with me, and this morning I'm truly, humbly aware of the great blessings He has given to me through my beautiful daughter and  my precious mother.  


  1. Your honesty will definitely be of help to others on the same journey.
    While our mothers do not have Alzheimer's or dementia they do live on either side of us. One night this week Warren was helping his mother with a plumbing issue while my mother called me about a hurtful phone call she had with her sister. When Warren returned we looked at each other and were reminded once again how much our lives have changed since we lost our fathers. We are in the thick of being emotional and physical support for both of these ladies. While there are times of frustration it is the way we want it. Just not so soon....that's what we keep saying.

  2. These are important thoughts, Linda, but I have a question. My mother does frustrate me in many ways, almost daily. I do come home and tell my husband. I've always thought I need to release the pent-up frustration to him, so I don't let it show to her. I feel like I will explode if I keep everything inside of me. Is that wrong?

  3. @Paula--oh, I do really believe it is important to have someone who can stand firm as a sounding board, and I think it is ok to vent to that trusted other when our dementia patients are frustrating and hurtful. But here is the crux of the matter: it is my responsibility to my mother to love her with the love that covers a multitude of sins (like Jesus has loved me). And as the stronger partner in our relationship (I control her finances, the food she eats, her medications, and her schedule) I need to cut her some slack when she is resentful and angry. I have a network of support; because I write a caregiving column for the local newspaper our entire community is empathetic and supportive of me as a caregiver. I need to remember my mother has only me. I really believe that 1 Peter 3:7 can be paraphrased like this:
    "Caregivers, love your care recipients and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may hinder your prayers." I don't want my prayers to be hindered. The true challenge is to recognize the difference between vilifying my mother to my husband versus reaching out for his kindness and support following an emotionally painful clash with Mom.