“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ”
Resentments undermine progress and wreak havoc on my life. They serve no purpose other than to drain my emotional health and positivity. Resentments keep me in the past. They handcuff me and stifle my ability to move forward.
Resentments have very little to do with what another person has done to me. They are about the injustice I feel I have suffered and find unacceptable. I hold onto these toxic feelings because they are comfortable and familiar. I don’t have to think much to process them. I can simply feel the anger and indignation fester inside of me and know that I’m alive.
12 step programs thoroughly discuss and address resentments in their literature. One of the most powerful statements that I have read on the subject comes from the Big Book of AA:
“This mental habit extracts tremendous costs. After all, resentment does nothing to change the person we resent. Nor does it resolve conflict. Instead of freeing us from the wrongs of others, resentment allows those people to dominate our thinking — a kind of emotional bondage.”
Working through resentment is an arduous task. It takes the ability to truly let go and not only forgive someone else, but yourself as well. In every resentment usually lies shame, embarrassment, guilt, sadness and anger (the list extends far past that). I feel that my actions have played a role in creating all of my resentments . There is a part of me that questions what I could have done differently in order to avoid these feelings.
In order for me to relinquish my resentments I need to get passed my fragile ego and accept things for how they are. That is the starting point. From there, there are others processes that I have been taught, or learned on my own, to create a resentment free life.
I have been told to pray for the people I resent. Asking God to give these people all that I would want for myself. It takes the power away from the resentment. If you are able to pray for someone you have such ill will towards you can overcome your feelings. At first it may feel like just words. That’s fine; go through the motions anyway. I have done this for several years and it has helped me.
The other day I tried a powerful exercise. I wrote a list of everyone that I was resentful towards. Then next to each persons name I made a very detailed list of each reason I had to resent them. Some of these reasons seemed silly and foolish, but it was important that I write them down. It got all my feelings out of my head and made them real and concrete.
I had to be willing to be uncomfortably honest with myself about why I harbored each resentment. Sometimes those feelings were embarrassing even to admit to myself. However, it was important for me not to be judgmental about what I wrote as that could keep me from being completely forthcoming.
I started the list with the most obvious person that I harbor the most resentment toward, myself. This list was by far the longest. There are just so many things I have done that I resent.
Then I added my family, my ex girlfriend and people from my past that tormented me. I added anyone to my list if I dwelled upon their “unacceptable” actions towards me.
By the end of the exercise I had 10 people on that list. That seems like a lot of people to have resentments against. I have struggled to let go of this poison.
After the list was completed I reread what I had written. That sparked some more ideas of what I was resentful about and I added to the list again. Once I had emptied my tank and my list was complete I folded the papers, said goodbye and burned them it my sink.
I watched as the flames grew larger and smoke emanated from the paper. The words turned black and slowly disappeared in front of me until eventually the list was nothing but ash.
The process of writing them down on paper, facing them and then burning them was cathartic. I felt a sense of relief. The burden of all the resentments I had carried round with me for far too long seemed lighter and less intense.
Resentments can only live inside of our hearts and minds. They do not exist anywhere else. The more they are ignored the stronger they become. Learning to resolve resentment gives us mental and emotion freedom, as well as the ability to become more confident, happy and cognizant of the world around us.