Resentment: a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.
Personally, I have found little or no personal value benefit to the feeling of resentment. I have found that resentment is just longstanding anger that people cling to and feel justified in keeping this feeling of anger due to a perceived wrongdoing.
Imagine the last time you felt resentful towards a person or a course of action. Did you enjoy this feeling, or did you feel a great sense of dis-ease? Did your resentment lead to any positive actions? Did resentment lead to an argument? Or does your resentment just simmer or boil inside of you?
Resentment is a feeling that is entirely related to how we chose to think and feel about a situation. There is no universal “cause and effect” since resentment is a chosen response. For example, if someone tells you a joke and you choose to take offense or insult, you are choosing a resentful response. You could just as easily let it go. You are the one defining what “offensive” is. Even if the other person is stating the comment with the intent to offend, it is our choice to take offence.
Resentment can come out of our imagined intentions of others. We may interpret others actions as having the motive to make us feel bad. The majority of the time, other people act the way they are going to act without thinking about us. We are not the central character in their story, but since we are the central character in our own story we can view other people’s motivations as relating to our own.
Resentments can arise due to what we choose to believe about specific situations. I have the tendency to get resentful when interrupted frequently during a conversation. In my mind, I have constructed the belief that I have the right to complete a thought. When I am interrupted, I experience a feeling of “injustice” and I may start to feel “ill will” to the interjecting conversational partner. I know that I need to release this feeling of resentment. I know that the majority of the time there is no animosity from the person interrupting me and the other person is just engaging in his/her own conversational style. Even if the other person is intentionally being rude or argumentative, I can choose to avoid feelings of indignant displeasure.
Sometimes, resentment can arise based on how we define our own roles and the roles of others around us. At home, I occasionally feel resentful when my children make multiple demands regarding what I need to do for them. During these moments, I do not feel that it is fair that my children’s needs should come before my own needs. However, when I analyze this situation, I realize that my children are being developmentally appropriate by considering only their own needs. I also acknowledge that I have the choice of placing my needs, wants and desires before the needs (and requests for toys, games, fun stuff and money) from my children. Since I have composed an internal story that I am a “loving parent” that truly cares for my children, I strive to do everything possible to make sure that feel cared for. When I realize that I am the author of my own story and that I am in total control of the situation at hand, there is no reason for me to feel resentful.
“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”
Strategies to Renounce Resentment
Forgiveness is just the act of letting it go. We can forgive the person that we feel has done us wrong and we can forgive ourselves for holding onto unproductive resentment.
A few years back, I harbored a lot of resentment towards a specific individual. I will call this person “Ire” to protect the “guilty”. I kept a long list of grievances against “Ire” that I “knew” were justified. After being miserable for a while, I realized that there was no action that I could take that would make the other person apologize or to make them offer restitution for their actions. The only thing that I had the power to do was to forgive them, and let go of all of my resentment. I still interact with this person in question. Without my emotional baggage, we can interact on a professional level. I have not forgotten the events, but I have forgiven the person for their actions.
Meditation can be an effective strategy to let go of the internal dialogue justifying our resentments. By practicing meditation where we the focus is becoming unattached to our thoughts, it becomes easier to let go of thoughts and stories that we keep rattling around in our brains to justify our anger. Sometimes specific meditative practices are helpful as well. When I decided to forgive “Ire” for the multitudes of resentments, I found a specific Buddhist meditation helpful. For this meditation, you start your focus on the people that you love dearly. Then you reflect, “I wish ____ to be free from suffering, and the root of suffering”. After starting with the ones you love the most dearly, you repeat this intention to you close friends, then you repeat it for acquaintances, then finally you wish the people who for whom you harbor anger to be free from suffering, and the root of suffering.
Denounce your victimhood
One of the causes of our resentment is the perception that we are “victims”. In viewing ourselves as victims of the words and actions of other, we give away our personal power. Remember that you are the protagonist in your own story and that you have the power to choose how to respond to all life events.
Write your own story
Journal or write down how you want to feel in a given situation. If you are resentful about a situation where you have no control, record how you can change your emotional response or what lesson you have learned from the situation. It may also be helpful to re-write the life scenario where you are free from resentment. Imagine what it would feel like to let go of that resentment.
There are many affirmations already written about choosing forgiveness and letting go of resentment and anger. I have found that the podcast “My Thought Coach” by Stin has good audio affirmations on this topic. It is also very easy to write your own affirmations and review them every day. For example “I forgive all for every perceived hurt or injustice in my past. I choose to let go of anger and resentment and to learn for every life experience”.
Letters Never Sent
As symbolic exercise to release yourself from causes of resentment, you could write letters to the person that you feel has done you wrong. In these letters, the goal is to get your feelings about the situation on paper with the intent of letting these feelings go. Once you have finished with the letter, you can burn them ceremoniously or shred them into tiny pieces while thinking “I am done with this!”