Resentment and Forgiveness
When we tackled mindful conflict resolution yesterday, we noted that the last step is to move on and forgive. If you read that paragraph with a scoff, you likely weren’t the only one. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult human intentions, but the cost of holding onto resentment makes it imperative that we develop skills for forgiveness and release of resentment.
We experience resentment when we replay the same emotions over and over, long after an event has occurred. It is an active refusal to forgive someone. This can leave us feeling agitated, unhappy, and focused on things we often have no control over. Resentment is heightened when it is felt against someone we’re close to, and our loved ones are more likely to be the target of this feeling because our relationships with them are often complicated. While we can’t always control the actions of others, we can control our reaction to them. Releasing resentment and entering into forgiveness is a powerful tool.
Why resentment is harmful to you
A key thing to remember about our resentment against others is that it likely affects us far more than it does them. Holding onto anger and resentment takes a toll on your mental and emotional health, but does very little of that to the other person. Holding onto resentment for an extended amount of time may also begin taking a toll on your physical health, similar to the toll stress and anxiety can take on your body. Resentment is living in the past and letting it impact our present. If we are in this period of massive growth in so many other areas (as removing alcohol from our lives often is), but we’re still stuck holding onto old grudges, it impedes our progress. Old wounds, old grievances, do nothing but hold us back.
So we know that holding onto resentment is toxic, but what do we do about it? We actively choose to forgive and move forward. Considering journaling through the following:
Put a name to the feeling, identify the actions that have led to it
Practice non judgement for ourselves - resentment is a perfectly normal human experience that does not make us less than for experiencing
Acknowledge we cannot change the past or control the actions of others
Choose to forgive
Perhaps write a letter to the other person (even if it never gets sent) expressing why you’ve held onto resentment against them. The act of (safely) burning this letter can be a helpful symbolic release of your resentment. Affirmations are also a helpful tool for forgiveness - repeating “I forgive them” to ourselves over and over has the power of actually rewiring our brains into believing it.
While difficult, when we begin to practice forgiveness and learn how to release resentment, we allow ourselves to fully live in the present. We keep our forward progress, and we relieve unnecessary stress on our bodies and minds. Consider who you might need to forgive today, and see if it makes you feel just a little bit lighter to do so.