Letting Go of Resentment
By Leslie Vernick
When someone hurts us, is foolish, or sins against us, the consequences of their behaviors often impact us more than the other person.
Anger, bitterness and resentment can be the result. Even when someone hasn’t intentionally inflicted harm, these negative emotions creep into our spirits and are hard to get rid of.
Here are four things you can do if you find yourself stuck in resentment.
1. Ask yourself what purpose do these negative emotions serve?
Is it payback? Is it an attitude of “I get to be right?”
Or, is it that you haven’t been able or willing to forgive?
Or, perhaps it is an indicator that you’re angry and need to have a conversation with someone who has sinned against you in order to bring healing to the relationship.
2. Recognize that you are not a helpless “victim” of your own emotional life.
The Apostle Paul says to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31:32 (NIV)
And Ecclesiastes 11:10 says, “Remove vexation from your heart.” (ESV)
It’s important we acknowledge we have an important part to play if we want to let go of negative feelings.
3. In order to let go of negative emotions you have to want to. If you’re struggling with the willingness, ask yourself these two questions.
What will it cost me to hold on to them?
What will it cost my marriage (or relationship) if I hang on to them?
4. Here are two specific steps you can take to begin to let go of resentment as well as other negative emotions.
Externalize your negative emotion: We often over identify with our emotions as if they are us. One way to break this habit is to pay attention to how we talk about our feelings.
For example, instead of saying “I am resentful,” say it this way, “I’m aware that I am feeling resentful.”
It’s important to realize that YOU are not your feelings. When you give yourself a bit of space by saying it this new way, you now can do something about your resentment. In other words you have your resentment instead of your resentment having you.
Once you’re aware you’re feeling those emotions and no longer want to, choose to practice the opposite virtue.
When the apostle Paul tells us to get rid of these negative feelings, he doesn’t stop there. He then tells us to be kind, compassionate and forgiving.
When we don’t want to feel our negative feelings, actually doing something opposite to them coupled with a genuine heart, helps get rid of them.
We remove a bad feeling when we replace it with another feeling. It’s impossible to feel two opposite feelings (such as anger and compassion, or complaining and gratitude) at the same time.
Practicing the opposite virtue helps you not allow your temporary emotional state to dictate how you live or how you will treat someone. Instead you choose to treat another person out of who you are (or want to become) rather than how you feel in any particular moment. This practice will help release the negative emotions you no longer want to feel and replace them with joy and peace.
About Leslie Vernick
Leslie Vernick is a national speaker, licensed counselor, coach and author with more than 25 years of experience on personal and spiritual growth, marriage improvement, conflict resolution, depression, child abuse, and domestic violence, and has helped countless individuals, couples and families enrich the relationships that matter most!
Leslie has written six books and is a contributor to numerous others. Make sure you check out her weekly blog, where she answers relationship questions.
Leslie lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Howard, and their dog Gracie. They have two grown children.