One of the most recent questions I’ve received is about resentment. What can one do when they are riddled with resentments? Can resentment be overcome? And if so, how? Resentment is an awful feeling. I know, because I’ve experienced it time and time again. I have heard resentment best described as when you take poison and wait for the person whom you resent, to die. In that instance, you’re the one holding the resentment and you’re the one feeling the pain of the poison. Instead of remaining in the feeling of resentment, let’s explore ways of combatting and ultimately triumphing over the debilitating feeling of resentment.
In the Bhagavad Gita, (chapter 2, verse 63), resentment is described as follows. “Anger leads to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of the memory. When the memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined.” https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/63
Why Do We Have To Overcome Resentment?
As described in the Bhagavad Gita, we have to overcome resentment, or it destroys us. Resentment really has the power to kill. When we feel angry, rageful, self-righteous, indignant or even just hurt, it cuts us off from any chance of feeling serene. The more I think about the person who I perceived has harmed me, the more entrenched in the story of how I am right and they are wrong. I am the victim, they are the abuser. And I cannot find any peace until I reconcile this problem. Thus, the feeling of anger and resentment affects me far more than it affects them. It’s as if I’m letting them live ‘rent free’ in my mind. Instead of thinking thoughts that would be far more profitable. We must overcome our resentments or else it:
- Robs us of appreciating and enjoying the present moment
- Causes us unnecessary pain and suffering
- Diminishes our ability to function at the highest level possible
What is the Price For Not Dealing With Our Resentments?
In some cases, resentment can actually kill us. For instance, when the resentment is so severe that it causes us to engage in self-defeating and dangerous behaviors.
- Returning to (relapse) or not dealing with our addictions.
- Such as: overeating, overspending, cutting our bodies.
- Or we lash out in rage and retaliation from the pain and frustration that mounts as a result of the resentment.
Resentment is so uncomfortable. The inappropriate actions are just the distraction we use to escape the pain and discomfort of resentment. I have experienced these strong feelings of rage and resentment, by the way. So I know how damaging and dangerous they can be. I have wasted useful hours raging and arguing in my mind with someone about a conversation that had happened well in the past. I have stupidly engaged in road rage which I don’t have to tell you is extremely dangerous. The last time I did it, someone pulled a gun on me and pointed it out the window. That was when I learned it wasn’t worth it to be ‘right.’ I may have been right, but I would have been killed. It still chills me to think of that time. But it was my own rage and resentment which placed me in that precarious position.
Just How Do We Master Resentment?
Mastering resentment is not easy – it takes work. Sometimes it takes a lot of work. But I assure you – this work is so very worth it. However, it is not an easy fix. The tools I am going to give you, when taken together, become a powerful way to overcome resentment. I have heard it said that one should pray for the person whom I resent. That I should ask for them to receive everything I want for myself. I should do this for 2 weeks and then I will feel better about the resentment. I have tried this, and although it is a good strategy, I did not find relief from taking that action by itself. Prayer for the person we resent has to be coupled with more action.
We have to explore the old beliefs and old ideas we have about the person and the resentment. We have to examine to understand what exactly the person did to us, and what we have done as a result. For instance, I have perceived my loved ones were not treating me with the respect I felt I was entitled to, and so I withheld my love from them. From my resentment, I ‘punished’ them with my coldness because “I would show them!” But it didn’t work. Sometimes, they were not even aware that I was being cold to them, and if they were aware, they still didn’t react nor respond the way I felt they should! And that only served to exacerbate the situation! So, I first have to understand not only what they did to me, but also I have to look at how I responded. Once I see that more clearly, I can say that above prayer for them. I can even meditate on the concept of releasing them from the confines of my mind. And then I can say a prayer to be released from my anger. Even if I still think I am ‘right’ in the situation. If I am still angry, it doesn’t help to be right.
The Antidote to Resentment is Forgiveness
Instead, I have to be willing to forgive them. Forgiving someone does not mean I condone what they did. It just means I am willing to give up having to be right and miserable. They may have done something horrible to me. And forgiving them doesn’t make what they did okay. It just means I am okay to stop being damaged by what happened and am willing to move in a new direction. I also believe that when we forgive others, it opens our hearts to the flow of creativity. Creativity becomes the river by which we flow to freedom. I cannot create when my energy is blocked. And nothing closes me down faster than anger and resentment. Forgiveness opens me back up. But in order to become ready to forgive, I have to do the examination work to look at the resentment and see it in a new way. That what happened is not my problem. What I have done since that experience and how I reacted since then, has been my problem. But I can make a new choice and become free from the anger and pain of the past.
When I am free, I can create. I can live more fully. And I am more rooted in the present – not living in the pain of the past or the fear of the future. Creativity is the best revenge! If we really want to seek revenge on someone who has wronged us – forgive them and move on. Become your best and most creative self. Forgiveness is the gift you can give yourself to be able to live as a free person.
Please let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to answer. I will be answering these questions for the next few weeks. Until we meet again, may you be blessed on your spiritual journey!
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