Resentment. The longer you live the more and more opportunities you have to feel resentment toward someone. It’s a feeling that betrayed individuals are especially prone to. What exactly is resentment all about?
Re- means “again.” -Sentment is like the word “sentiment” which means “to feel.” So resentment means to feel again. And for most people, it means to feel again and again and again and again….We can literally have resentment every day until the day we die.
Resentment is a hard feeling to overcome because it can make you feel better about yourself. You have been wronged. Because of that, it’s easy to feel like you are a much better person than the offender. All of us like to feel like we are good people, better than others, so it can be difficult to give up thoughts that cause us to feel like a more righteous and higher-quality person than someone else.
Furthermore, we hold on to resentment because we (erroneously) believe that if we hold out long enough, the offender may come to his senses and offer us the apology we deserve. We imagine how good it would feel to finally have the satisfaction of the offender realizing how horribly they treated us, admitting their guilt, feeling remorse and shame for their actions, and making amends with us. We think that the justice we deserve may come to us if we just hold out long enough.
But holding out for this hope is futile. It’s a rarity for someone to seek us out and make things right. It would take a level of maturity and self-awareness that few people ever reach. Furthermore, that assumes that the person we resent even knows that they hurt us. Obviously, an unfaithful spouse should know they hurt us, but sometimes in life we are resentful towards people who have no idea that we believe they’ve wronged us.
Resentment is a feeling that feels good in the moment, but will only end up harming us in the long run.
What are the dangers of hanging on to resentment?
- It begins to take up space in our minds and can become so persistent that it keeps us from experiencing the fullness and beauty of our lives.
- It keeps us from feeling higher emotions and experiences like gratitude and creativity.
- It gets in the way of altruism and compassion
- It keeps us self-focused.
- It fosters a victim mentality and a general outlook that life is unfair to us.
- It can simmer under the surface until it boils over as rage or hate.
- It grows and strengthens over time as it is nurtured.
- It is like a cancer in your soul that becomes harder and harder to extract.
- It can lead to harmful self-medicating behavior.
- It keeps the offender with you wherever you go. You are handing him the power in your life.
In short, resentment keeps us stuck. If you’re stuck, you’re not winning at life. You may blame the other person for causing you to have a mediocre or depressed life, but it’s really you that can’t let go of the feeling of resentment. You are the prisoner of your own thoughts. 12-Steppers often say, “Resentment hurts me most.”
How do you overcome feelings of resentment?
- Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling. You will have to stop justifying your feelings of resentment in order to let them go.
- Acknowledge your powerlessness to control the behavior of the offender.
- Acknowledge your powerlessness to change the events of the past.
- Refuse to ruminate on the events that have caused your resentment. You can’t move forward while you are clinging to the past.
- Think about what is true, not what you imagine to be true. Can you really know for sure that the offender did what they did out of malice against you? No, you can’t. Attributing intentions to the offender harm you further. Most likely, the offender acted in a way that they thought was best for them, nothing else. Hurting you was a byproduct of that action, but not the intention.
- Begin to act in a way that is opposite of the feeling that you are trying to overcome. Do the action first and the feeling will come as your mind tries to make your behavior and thoughts congruent.
- Begin to pray for the offender. Pray the types of things for the offender that you would pray for yourself. It’s hard to resent someone you are praying God’s blessing on.
We can only enjoy resentment for a short time while we are basking in the superiority of our own behavior. In the long run, it is a feeling that destroys us. It is a feeling that wastes time and energy that we could be using to create the present and the future that we really want to have.
Forgiving the one who has hurt you is one of the most self-strengthening and empowering things you will ever do. It’s tough. You won’t enjoy the process at the time. But you will begin to see how letting go of the resentment is healing your soul and helping you become the person you wish to be.