Resentment is the addiction to thinking negatively about others. To successfully break any addiction, you have to do two things: you have to (1) build up a different pattern and (2) give yourself some healthy boundaries to prevent relapse. It’s no different when it comes to freeing yourself from resentment. You have to just stop it. Stop thinking negatively about others. Stop replaying in your head what people did to you. Stop keeping track of your losses and the people who were responsible for them. Stop meditating on how worse off you are now because of all those who hurt you. Stop fantasizing about the elaborate revenge that you would like to take out on your enemies.
What do you do instead?
Well, first you have to learn how to deal with anger in a healthy way. Many people have built up a pattern of immediately going into their head when they’re angry. In their head, they then meditate on negative thoughts that intensify their anger which causes them to go right back into their head with more negative thoughts, and it just goes on and on. Instead of so quickly going into your head, learn how to stop, recognize “hey, what I’m feeling right now is anger,” and then just feel this emotion and let it pass. By exposing yourself to the emotion of anger and not doing anything else, you will build up your tolerance for this uncomfortable emotion. You’ll get used to it. And you won’t have to keep on going into your head.
Secondly, forgive those who wronged you. Forgiveness is just letting go of your hurtful past. It does not require your wrongdoers to say, “Hey, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” No, what if the person you hold resentment against is dead? Do you expect him to come back to life and ask you for forgiveness? No, forgiveness is not dependent on them, what they ask, or even their understanding of the pain that they inflicted upon you. Forgiveness is only dependent on you and whether or not you choose to let it go.
So let’s say you are contemplating the idea of forgiveness. Here are some of the common negative thoughts that will follow and try to convince you that it is not a good idea. “They don’t deserve it.” What? It’s not about them. It’s about you and the emotional freedom that you deserve. “If they’re let off so easily without punishment, they’ll never learn and the world would be worse off.” That’s thinking pretty negatively there. How about trusting that everything will be ok and, in the meantime, resolving your own resentment which would make the world a better place. “My hate fuels me to work hard until the day that my success makes them regret what they did to me. Without my hate, I wouldn’t have as much determination.” No, you don’t know that. Actually, people work much more effectively, efficiently, and come up with more creative solutions when they are pulled by love rather than pushed by hate and anxiety. “If I don’t keep track of all the ways that people hurt me, I will get hurt in the same way again and again.” Hey, maybe you might get hurt again in the same way. But that’s ok. Keeping track won’t protect you from getting hurt again. We live in an imperfect world with a bunch of imperfect people. So don’t listen to those garbage thoughts. Forgiveness is a very good idea.
A lot of people confuse forgiveness with making excuses for others. But they are not the same. Making excuses for others is a coping mechanism called “rationalization.” Forgiveness, on the other hand, doesn’t make excuses for others. It says, “What you did to me was wrong and I didn’t deserve it. Still, I choose to let go.”
And finally, as a bonus step for those who really want greater happiness and healthier relationships, you have to build a new pattern of thinking positively about others at all times, even when they let you down.
In my next post, I’ll go into greater detail about this last step as well as how you can use rationalization in a healthy way.
NOTE: I forgot to mention that, after forgiveness, you don’t have to be buddies.