The Burning of the Resentments

The resentments sent me via my post Your Resentment, Up in Smoke were burned on the small grounds just outside the front of the church I attend at dawn this morning, Easter 2012. No resentments sent me were excluded; before leaving the house this morning I printed out the latest ones to come in.

After I had deposited the resentments into the rough-hewn wooden box our pastor was kind enough to invite me to with him set the box afire, using flame we borrowed from our church’s Paschal candle.

Readers of this blog had sent me about 200 resentments. Printed in 8-point font on pages with minimal borders, they filled about thirty pages. As they came into me I prayerfully read each one of them. This prepared me to as a whole keep them in my heart and mind as they became smoke that drifted up toward heaven. The burning of the resentments whilst reading and listening to the morning’s liturgical prayers proved for me an extremely moving experience.

Following the burning of the resentments the Eucharistic service continued inside the sanctuary.

The woman in the fourth picture down, in the camel-colored coat holding the purse, is my wife Catherine. You see how seriously she took this burning. The final picture is of yours truly.


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  • Thank you, John.

  • Rick Reiley via Facebook

    Yes. Thank you.

  • Beth

    Thank you John for your continuing efforts, Catherine for your prayers and Paster Bob for the idea. Since my initial post I have since learned that my mother was molested by the same step-grandfather I mourned, in fact eulogized. I felt that too was released today, along with the other resentmets I had originally posted.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. And God Bless You All!

  • Mary Wisner Miller via Facebook

    I should have participated. 🙁

  • Beth Adams via Facebook

    Thank you so much. Very healing

  • I go to a cross high on a hill near my home in the Sierra quite a bit and on Good Friday, I do my own service up there. I write things on papers, mostly things I want to let go of or need help with. Then I shove the paper in the rocks and say “the tomb is empty and it can handle all of my crap” and I do communion. Been doing it for four years now and it is scared to me.

  • Craig Fox via Facebook

    Would be great if this took off in the church. The organization that saved my life, Narcotics Anonymous, has been doing this for 58 years. It’s actually the part 5th step for most people working the 12 steps.

  • Dave Bowling

    Peace to you, John, for allowing so many to be a part of burning their resentments in such a moving service. Just wish I could have been there with you, but your article and photos provide a vivid description.

    PS: Love the idea of all faiths annually united via a common human thread (or obstacle) which we all endure and seek resolution (if not absolution).

  • Susan

    I thought of this a little while ago, took a deep breath, a felt pretty, pretty good. Thanks, John.

  • Thank you John! Happy, blessed Easter! (((HUG)))

  • Carol B. VanderNat via Facebook

    Thank you!

  • Amy

    I thought of this when I woke up and went to church this morning; it was in my mind as I served Communion. I left church feeling lighter, knowing that I had given up my hurts to be released in smoke. Thank you for this.

  • Jeanette

    I’ve been writing out some resentments and plan to shred and compost them. Both burning and composting are good symbolism, but I think for the ones I’m writing I need to compost them.

  • Good work John.

    Happy Easter.

    One Love


  • Amanda Lasseter via Facebook

    Thank you John.

  • DR

    I was fortunate enough to join St. Andrews Presbyterian church this morning, home to Anne Lamott’s faith family. It was so moving to be there and I prayed for you and for everyone here as I imagined those resentments burning. So much pain, stress, anxiety and failure we’re all facing. We can’t do it alone. We can’t do it period without help.

  • Thank you…thank you for being an ear to the words many of us couldn’t speak to anyone else. Thanks for being a reflection of god’s love.

  • Lisa Metzler via Facebook

    Thank you!! Wonderful, as usual. I look forward to reading more about the Burning of Resentments as an annual event and something that becomes ecumenical.

  • mae

    thank you. I will remember that smoke in that picture this week.

  • Allie

    Thank you. Looking back my resentments that I sent you seem so trivial. Must have worked!

  • otter

    A Christian Puja! What a great blending of traditions!

    John, you and your followers have been burning up my resentment of non-christlike-christians for several months…blessings to you all.

  • otter

    Oh,,one more thought….fire is such a powerfully transformative symbol in so many traditions, would you consider hosting a similar ceremony to carry good wishes on the wind? I envision prayers for peaceful and loving faith traditions, the development of a compassionate society or for whatever positive things we aspire to create, drifting skyward in the smoke.

  • Victoria Elizabeth

    Thank you. =)

  • CJ in AZ

    Thank you John. I look forward to hearing about the transformation of this one time event into an annual healing service.

  • CJ in AZ

    I like that idea!!

  • Donn Coon

    I’ll do what I can, John, to share this with clergy in my area. This is most certainly a fascinating idea and one that could beome your vision – a Worldwide event.

  • Thank you John. I am not a dreamer– at least not in the literal sense. Nor do I take dreams to mean anything more mystical than your subconscious mind working through your conscious issue. That said yesterday I prayed for release and went about my day doing homework. That’s a normal Sunday morning for me, but last night I dreamt that all my hard feelings had no place and it was time to move on. I probably won’t be attending service in my area. I still know too much to trust it, but I do believe I am on the path of healing. Thank you for allowing me to openly say and acknowledge what I have been feeling. I appreciate you allowing God to use you. AND your wife is beautiful.

  • Keetcha

    Thank you John, Pastor Bob and your wife Catherine. I have tears from feeling a connection that I usually don’t have. Too many resentments reside in this beat up old bod and soul. The idea of everyone releasing them together is definitely a connector. We all suffer and need to let it go. Blessings.

  • Christy

    Beautiful, DR. Thank you for sharing this and for you and your prayers for all here.

  • Christy

    Thank you, John.

  • Jennifer Edwards

    Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much it helped.

  • Rachel Koopmans via Facebook

    Thank you John xxx

  • Rachel

    I sent in a resentment yesterday and in the busy-ness of Easter forgot about it until now, so coming here for an update was a bit of an after-thought. I got to the bit where your wife stayed back to pray and from completely out of nowhere I was overwhelmed by a tremendous wave of emotion. I can hardly stop the flood of tears. I’ve been angry about my situation for so long! And I have never admitted it to anyone, even myself. Now I feel like a huge burden is lifting. I can hardly believe that total strangers have blessed me with such an amazing gift. Thank you so very much xxx

  • Linda

    Hi John,

    My request to burn my resentments was # 207, I think.

    I canot find the page to see if you replied to me.

    How do I find it?

    Thank You,


  • I did burn yours up, Linda. I remember it specifically.

  • Rick Eubank via Facebook


  • Amanda

    Thank you so much for doing this, John. It really does feel like a weight has been released from my soul (no matter how cheesy that sounds!).

  • Michelle Woods via Facebook

    I should’ve put mine in there

  • Thank you John for lifting some of the burdens carried by so many.

  • natalie

    Thank you.I feel unburdened.

  • Karen Miller

    In my mind and heart, the burning of my resentments was serious business. I had no idea how the actual event would occur. I honestly didn’t think it would embody the seriousness and emotion behind my resentments. Your pictures have proven otherwise. Thank you so much for having a ceremony that truly honoured the act of releasing these resentments. I was worried that the burning would be trivialized. But the photos show me that it was a serious to you as it was to me. Thank you.

  • Yeah, this kind of trust is hardly anything I’d take lightly. Thanks for this, Karen.

  • beautiful, natalie. thank you.

  • No, that’s doesn’t sound cheesy at all, Amanda. Just the opposite.

  • Ah, no worries, Michelle. We’ll get ’em next time.

  • thanks for this, valerie.

  • Thank you for this, Rachel.

  • You just did, Jennifer. Thank you.

  • You’re welcome, of course.

  • Blessings to you too, Keetcha.

  • Thanks for all of this, Ingrid.

  • Blessings to you too, Otter.

  • Must have, Allie!

  • good. I will too, mae.

  • gosh, that’s sweet to say. thank you, jan.

  • I believe we felt your prayers, DR!

  • nice. i like ethat, jeanette.

  • what a beautiful thing to share, Amy. thank you.

  • And to you, Lois!

  • You’re welcome, of course, Susan.

  • thanks, david. always so good to hear from you.

  • And God bless you, friend Beth.

  • I haven’t kept up here recently and missed the whole resentment-burning set up, so I don’t know if this has been mentioned already….

    In many 12-step practices, the burning of the resentment list is part of the 5th step. At least, that’s been my experience. I wrote out my resentments as part of Step Four, discussed them with my sponsor as part of Step Five, and then we burnt them. It was truly a liberating experience to see all that poison go up in smoke, being given to God so I didn’t have to carry it any longer.

  • Linda

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You John.


  • SquirrelyGirl

    Like many others I missed this somehow. But I LOVE IT. A very long time ago (thank God) my husband had an affair. I found love notes in his wallet. I held on to those suckers for dear life. I cried over them, I got pissed over them, I screamed and threatened over them. When we finally decided to try to work things out, I held on to them…just in case I needed to throw them back up in his face as part of his punishment. One day I realized we could never truly move forward without true forgiveness and a little bit of forgetting. So I finally took them from their sacred little box of resentment, put them in a bowl, took a match and burned them. It was the most liberating moment in my life. Those notes didn’t hurt her or him for a very long time, but they were killing me every single day, way pass the point that I “said” I had forgiven. Holding on to them was proof positive… I really had no intention of forgetting. I will not say that the memory of it all went up in smoke, but it certainly put me on a real road to human forgiveness. That was 2o years ago…we just celebrated our 26th anniversary this weekend and I read this and thought YES….fire does cleanse and purify in a sense!! Thank you for this John.

  • Caring Heart via Facebook


  • Oh, wow. SG, what a major story. Awesome. Thanks for sharing this with us. Powerful stuff.

  • Erin D.

    SquirrelyGirl, you made my heart race. I did the exact same thing with spiteful and angry emails my parents and I passed back and forth 12 years ago when I left the Catholic Church. I printed them off and held on to them because I felt like no one believed that parents could be truly *that* rude, bitter, and unreasonable just because their child was going to a Lutheran church instead of a Catholic church. I felt like I needed to keep them to help win people to my “side.” I even briefly considered publishing them on my website so that everyone in my family could see how awful they were treating me. (Thank God I did not!) I was so tied up in my self-pity and anguish. Then our pastor preached a sermon on forgiveness (link below) that literally, changed my life in one moment. I was half-listening, letting my mind wander as is wont to happen during sermons sometimes, and then he got the part where he said “Aren’t you tired of carrying this burden around?” and my heart began to race and I began to sweat and even though I had been listening to this sermon for 10 minutes it wasn’t until that moment that I really realized that he was talking about ME. He talks in the sermon about being a prisoner to expecting an apology that will never come (another thing I was guilty of.) I went home and destroyed the emails and I’ve never looked back.

    My relationship with my parents is just one religious conversation away from being troubled again, but none of us bring it up anymore so things are steady. If I hadn’t had the guts to forgive we would have stayed on that trajectory path and who knows where my mind would be right now. Sometimes I feel selfish because I know I forgave my parents more for me than for them, but now I believe that God wanted me to forgive them so I could be a better, more relaxed mom to my kids. So it wasn’t really about me, it was about my kids. 

    I’m really glad our church posted the sermon on their website because I have listened to it several times to help me through other situations, and I have sent the link to friends who needed healing as well: God bless!

  • SquirrelyGirl

    Thank you Erin, and thank you for sharing that sermon. Boy, don’t we all need that reminder often! God bless you!!

  • Brighid Rose

    Thank you, John…to you and everyone there. Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Jenna

    I just have to say it, John. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I am proud to call you a true ally of the LGBTQ community, especially those of us (including me) who are transgendered. Even for a usually sympathetic heterosexual ally, trans* issues can seem daunting and confusing and angry-making, but you handle it with superb grace. You are an ally of humanity in general :).

    If you’re ever in St. Louis, speaking or something, I would be honored to thank you in person.

  • Jenna

    Oh, and I’m sure you know this already, but your wife Catherine is just beautiful :).

  • Jill

    otter, this is great stuff. I’ve done shamanic Despacho ceremony, in similar vein with great peace and reverence. I’ve always wanted to join in a Lakshmi puja during Diwali. The healing capabilities through fire rituals are not religion-specific.

  • Jill

    Erin D, so much I understand in your story. Living an authentic life can so often mean alienating those who love us, in their way, but cannot find acceptance and respect for our own personal journey. So true we have to find our inner motivation for forgiveness– it’s never about ‘them’, no amount of forgiveness fixes them. Forgiveness is about fixing US, our relationship with ourselves, our faith (whatever that looks like), and those whom we love that put up with our bitterness!

    St. John’s is near Madison? I will have to take a road trip and check it out. On my ‘church search’, I’m willing to drive out of my way to find a place of peace. I ♥ church recommendations.