The cost of carrying resentments

Resentments are what most folks call, “baggage.” I prefer the expression folks in AA use:

“Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the person you’re mad at dies.”

Alcoholics Anonymous

I like it because it emphasizes the toxic nature of what we carry and the harm it does to us.

Letting go of resentment requires:

  • processing,
  • expression,
  • resolution,
  • letting go, and
  • forgiveness.

These are often the opposite of what we’re used to:

  • stuffing our feelings,
  • ignoring the memories,
  • telling ourselves to “get over it”, and
  • ignoring or denying the ongoing toll.

Externalizing and releasing our thoughts and feelings are keys to serenity. Too often, we embrace black and white approaches – we either confront the person who wronged us or we bury the memory, only to find it triggered again and again in the future.

The obstacles to forgiveness are many. We tend to think of it as something kind we do for the person who harmed us. We often feel that offering forgiveness is like saying that what they did is ok. We would do well to consider that forgiving others is something that can be done solely for our own benefit.

The challenges I most often hear from those I serve:

  • How do we release past pain and anger?
  • What good is there is bringing up the past?
  • How will that help me in the present?

Letting go is not a one-time event. It requires that we are mindful, notice what we feel, express it, and release it bit by bit. The good in bringing up the past is the opportunity to reframe it – to view it more honestly and to let go of the past pain and anger we carry. This will help remove self-limiting perspectives, exaggerated emotional reactions, and will ensure we address things more in the moment so as to not form new resentments.

It’s darkly amusing to me to note that the only things I’ve struggled to let go of were either already gone or things I truly didn’t want to hold on to. One of my all-time favorite Facebook memes:

“Everything I let go of has claw marks on it.”

My experience is that we most often change when we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. My experience is also that the more we are mindful and honest with ourselves, the sooner that time comes.