How Resentment Is Sabotaging Your Success
Resentment has been nicely defined by many wise wits over the years as “taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Resentment is a mix of disappointment, anger, fear and a sense of injustice. It’s a very personal feeling of being wronged, even betrayed, and it festers over time. Unlike anger, which displays itself outwardly, bitterness stays deeply inside a person until it starts seeping out. If we think of anger as a furious fire, resentment is acid, eating away at its container.
While anger is very visible, dramatic, even peculiarly energizing, resentment is hurtful and sharp at the onset, then becomes an ache. Unlike anger, resentment doesn’t need a specific event to generate its toxins.
Resentful people add every small disappointment to a big, heavy sack of bitterness they carry around, so to speak. Resentment includes pain over many small events that get blown out of proportion. It involves a sense of false righteousness. It’s also exhausting.
To overcome resentment, we have to understand that it’s doing nothing good for us. It’s not helping us in any way. Hanging onto memories of bad treatment and keeping hold of feelings of being mistreated hurts. It makes us feel lessened.
Consider the following steps to let go of resentment:
Identify everyone you have a resentment towards. The list will be long because let’s face it: most of us have a fair amount of resentments.
Write down what happened with that person that caused your resentment. What happened? This may be aggravating. Just thinking about resentment can cause anger to flare. Write down anything that built the resentment. Nothing is too trivial. Remember, resentment is an emotion and logic doesn’t play a part.
Write down how your resentment affects you now in the present. Don’t minimize and don’t hold back.
This is a hard step. Consider what you’ve done to keep the resentment alive. Have you tried to resolve the problem with the person you resent? If you have, what happened? How did that make things worse (or better)? Have you tried to resolve the resentment with that other person? It’s hard to be totally honest in this step but do it anyway.
There’s no magic here. This doesn’t cause your resentments to fly away. It does, however, bring them into the light of day. Now that you can see what you’re feeling, now that it’s at the level of cognitive thought, try some of the following methods to let resentment go.
For each resentment, do the following:
- Imagine that feeling of anger and hurt. Hold on to it, and then imagine yourself releasing that emotion. Imagine the relief you feel from the negative emotions draining away.
- Resentment grows in darkness. Share your feelings with a safe friend or confidante, who’ll hear you out with no judgment.
- Learn and practice means of self-calming. Deep, intentional breathing exercises are ideal, as is mindful awareness.
- When we have active resentment towards people in our lives right now, we may unconsciously be feeding our own resentments. With this in mind, try to show the object of your resentment some kindness, if that person is still in your life.
Forgiveness is a powerful tool in removing resentment and anger from your life. It’s such a big topic of its own, we will cover it elsewhere later. For now, understand that forgiveness is never saying that being wronged was ok, and it’s not an offer of reconciliation. Forgiveness removes our emotional energy from a bad situation, closes the door on it, and allows us to move forward.