In the days of my drinking and drugging, resentments were my trusty tool, my reliable excuse. Resentments were my fuel for going on a spree or a bender. In a state of self-pity, it was easy to justify my need for numbing my pains and sorrows. When I got sober my resentments did not automatically vanish, instead it required some dedicated and thorough work to remove them. In 12 step groups it is said that “resentments are our number one offender”, which means that resentments are one of the most common things that keep us miserable and cause us to relapse. It has been said that a resentment is like “drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Whether you are in a 12 step group or not, resentments are something that need to be addressed to maintain sobriety and serenity.
What exactly is a resentment?
Simply, a resentment is a feeling of angry displeasure at a real or imagined wrong, insult, or injury. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” Resentments are most commonly against other people who we believe have screwed us over or hurt us. These commonly include family, ex’s, bosses, co-workers, policemen, etc. When drinking, I often took everything that other people did personally. Some of us hold on to resentments that stem back to our childhood or ex-marriage. Other resentments include bitterness towards institutions and principles, such as religion, government, or the IRS. Some of these resentments are more justified that others, for instance if you’ve been cheated on or unjustly fired from a job. Whether the resentment is real or imagined does not matter, both types of resentments are equally deadly.
Identifying and Removing Resentments
The first step in cleansing ourselves of resentments is to identify our resentments. For some people, their list of resentments is a page long and for others it can be up to a dozen pages. The generally rule of thumb is that if something is still causing you to be bitter or angry then it is important to come to terms with. We do not have to write down every person who cut us off in traffic or the bully from first grade, unless it is causing us to still be bitter and ill-contented. Once we have identified our resentments there are a few ways to remove them from our lives. It is suggested that we look for our parts in the matter of the resentment. In matters such as divorce, it is fairly easy to find our part in the issue. Maybe we were insensitive, selfish, dishonest, hurtful, or unfaithful. It is important to put aside what has been done to you and instead focus on what you could have done differently. Once our roles in all our resentments have been identified, we then pray or ask our higher power to remove these resentments. We ask forgiveness and blessings for the people in our life and slowly our resentments diminish.
The principles behind working through our resentments and putting them behind us is about breaking the pattern of self-pity and to stop playing the victim. We learn to take responsibility for how our life has turned out and stop blaming people and things around us for our misery or misfortune. When we take ownership of our lives and our happiness we experience a sense of empowerment and freedom. Those old resentments no longer have a control over us and won’t weight us down with pity. We are freed from the shackles of the past and can focus on what is in our near horizon.