The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr. of Church-in-the-Garden, Rabbi Anchelle...

The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr. of Church-in-the-Garden, Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad of Mineola, and Donald Kengaku Zezulinski of Clear Mountain Zen Center. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr. (Thorpe and Perl); Donald Kengaku Zezulinski

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies,” Nelson Mandela said, exemplifying his capacity for love and forgiveness. This week’s clergy discuss why resentment crushes the spirit — and how to escape its grip.

The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City

A grudge can be downright corrosive because it shackles us to past issues that often remain unresolved and ever-present in our spirit. Grudges ensure that we harbor and relive the past slight, hurt or unpleasantness at the expense of our further spiritual progress. They manifest themselves physically in myriad ways — anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior, a desire for revenge — and create cycles of hurt.

The Scriptures show that grudges are part of our human nature. And those same texts call us to forgive and curtail our grudges as people of faith.

If grudges lock up our spirituality, then taking the time to acknowledge the grudge and working our way toward forgiveness of the person who caused it free us to be more positive and spiritually mature. We need to recognize that it’s these painful and dispiriting moments that lead us to grudges in the first place. Then, we must forgive.

The work of forgiveness is paramount to our highest sense of spirituality and is mandated by God. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Rabbi Anchelle Perl

Director, Chabad of Mineola

Holding a grudge stifles a basic belief in the workings of the Almighty. A friend of mine went to use the restroom in a large department store, where a toilet fell off the wall, landing on her foot and breaking her toe. That's a true story. The moral? If you're supposed to break your toe, God could use anything, even a toilet.

"God has many agents," our sages say. Life may seem to be no more than countless interactions with people, places, and things — yet behind them all, God is choreographing events to happen exactly the way he wants them, to the ultimate benefit of all involved.

The Baal Shem Tov, the founding master of the Hasidic movement, taught that if someone hurts you, this hurt was meant to happen to you. Yes, the agent of your misfortune has an account to settle with God. And you could sue for damages as well. Nevertheless, accept that for some reason this wound had your name on it, and it was for your own good. Then you can shed the grudge and move on.

Donald Kengaku Zezulinski of Island Park

Senior student teacher, Clear Mountain Zen Center 

In Zen practice, or Buddhism in general, the analogies of a chain (12 links of dependent origination) or being bound by fetters (manacles or shackles) are used to describe what keeps us in the world of samsara — dissatisfaction and suffering. In light of this view, a grudge held even for a moment prevents progress on the spiritual path.

The Buddha stated: "By this craving you poison yourself. You are tormented in this world like a tree choked with ivy, and your suffering greatly increases." (Dhammapada, Chapter 24) 

The term “craving” roughly means desire; in Buddhism, ignorance, greed and hatred are known as the three poisons. We can see a grudge as a manifestation of the three poisons keeping us trapped in suffering, and that it is of our own making and not from an external source.

Here’s the good news: If we look clearly, we see the trap can be opened and discarded. We are the architects, and whatever has been made can be unmade. The antidote to ignorance is wisdom, the antidote to greed is generosity and the antidote to hatred is loving kindness.