How to Banish Resentment

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Taking a Swallow of “Bitter Poison”

The biggest destroyer of human relationships is resentment. When we hold grudges against the people that have somehow wronged us, the only person that really suffers is you. While the other party is having a good time and living life, oblivious it the pent up anger and bitterness you are carrying, you are walking around thinking of ways to get even.

What’s more, a single resentment causes great stress and creates a flow of negativity in your life that can last for months, years and even decades later. I’ve known people who were still griping about people they resented in high school…and it was thirty years ago! Just one resentment is enough to hold onto; many people have dozens of these “bitter tags” they have not dealt with.

Resentment is a bitter pill becomes injected into everything you do. It infects your thoughts even when you are sleeping. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking a glass of poison and then waiting for the other person to die.” And it is just that. You are so bent on what was done to you by the other party that it can consume your thoughts, taking up valuable headspace that could be used for more constructive and creative methods.

Just one resentment is enough to hold onto; some people have dozens they have not dealt with. I know of one man who has held onto his pain for fifty years and it still eats away at him. He hasn’t let go. He’s still hanging on to the past, believing that if the people that hurt him could be made to suffer and be brought to justice that he would somehow be at peace.

Holding On to Hate

Let’s face it; life is not always fair. People, including close friends and family, are not always fair. You and I are not always fair. I don’t know of a single person, know matter how friendly or good a person, that hasn’t wronged someone at least once in life. It is just the human way; we sometimes deliver injury to those around us either intentionally or unintentionally.

What matters is not getting even with the wrong that was done to us but dealing with it in a mature manner. Will you let it eat you alive while your life is wasting away? Or, are you going to face the pain and accept what was done is never going to change. You may never get that apology or recognition that what was done to you was damaging. The other person could be completely unaware that they did anything or, if they are, it hasn’t registered that this injured the other person.

The Ego in the Way

Your ego is a powerful force. It wants to defend its territory and it will at all costs. It cares nothing for what is right or wrong; when it is injured, it reacts, and it often does so aggressively. The ego wants justification for what has been done; it longs for getting even. Unfortunately this is not the healthy approach; an attempt to get even only buries the injury deeper.

You don’t heal from getting revenge but you cut the wound deeper, not only for yourself but the person you are angry with. There are many cases that you have lost touch with the person you are angry with, or they want nothing to do with you. Either way, you only have one path to take. You have to take care of your side of the street; let the other person take care of theirs.

You Have a Choice

As with most things in life, the choice is always yours. You can stay angry and bereaved, while spreading your misery to every other part of your life; or, you can deal with it, accept it and move onto something new. Now, this is not as easy as it sounds. Someone who has endured years of physical or sexual abuse has a long road to recovery; the pain they feel is deep and unforgiving. And yet, I have encountered numerous people who worked through it, who found a way to over come the bitter resentment and grief. They moved onto create healthier circumstances. They forged deep and meaningful relationships. It can be done, even for the worst of situations.

Time to Move On

Holding onto resentment and continuing your path of angry emotions is not going to make your life any better. You want to make closure with the situation; you need to accept that it happened and waiting for the other person to one day walk up to your home and knock on the door with an apology is unrealistic. It rarely happens. What can you do is accept it, talk about it with someone, and clarify that what happened has had a negative impact on your life. The pain does not have to continue. And if it does, you are only inviting more misery.

Work to forgive the other party, not for their benefit but for your own. The act of forgiveness is not so you can tell them that what they did is okay and you forgive them. In many cases it may not be. You want to move on, and you want closure to the situation. Forgive, accept and clarify that you have done as much as you can to work through this. Now it is time to start living again.

Take-Away Strategies

  1. Make a list of people that have harmed you. Clarify what was done and how it affected your life. This is not a “victim” exercise where you get to play the victim to justify your hurt but rather, to put everything out there, to expose it so that you can deal with it objectively.
  2. Make a list of people you have harmed. Yes, now make a list of people that you think may have been injured by something you did. This puts it in perspective that, even though you may have been wronged, there are undoubtedly people out there have been wronged by your actions. By accepting and acknowledging this you free yourself.
  3. Write a letter to the person you are angry with. Tell them everything. Explain why you are hurt. In the letter let them know that you forgive them. Then, you can mail it if you want to, or you can burn it. Don’t hold onto it. Let it go. Once it is written, if you can no longer contact the person, get rid of the letter. By getting rid of it you are absolving the situation. I know someone who wrote a letter to his father thirty years after the man had died. By getting it on paper you are clarifying what was done, acknowledging that this injured you, and that you are ready to move on.
  4. Remember that by letting go and learning to move on it opens up the doorways for newer, healthier relationships to exist in the future. And this I what we want: To forge deeper lasting relationships with the people in our live that matter, both in the present and the future.

Questions for thought

  1. Have you ever had a resentment that lasted for a long time? Did you deal with it? How did you deal with it, and how did it change you?
  2. Have you ever had someone approach you and tell you they were inured by something you did? Have you ever acknowledged something you did to another that they may have caused resentment on their part? By looking at it from both angles broadens the mind and gets you away from the “victim” mindset.

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