5 People You Should Stop Resenting

5 People You Should Stop Resenting

“Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.” – Unknown

Resentment is generally defined as a feeling of indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance. The word resentment comes from the Latin word “sentire” which means, “to feel”, and the prefix “re” of course means “again”, so the word “resent” means “to feel again”. This means that when we experience resentments, we are forcing ourselves to repeatedly feel angry, hurt, annoyed, or upset about a single situation. We all experience feelings of resentment at various times in our lives. What we don’t realize, is that this masochistic cycle of self-obsession only hurts ourselves.

I realized that by holding onto resentments, I was ruining my life. I didn’t realize that my resentments were weighing me down with negativity which prevented me from being able to live in the moment, or experience gratitude. I desperately wanted to be able to access happiness, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose. But, in order for me to feel content with my life and experience genuine serenity, I had to first let go of my resentments that were holding me back from being truly happy.

Notice how I said “let go of”. I was taught that you cannot overcome, get around, get through, fight off, or get over resentment. These emotions are like heavy bags that I was choosing to pick up and carry with me on a daily basis. The only way to free myself from my own self-imposed prison of resentment was to relax my grip on the handles, and let them go. Letting go of resentment requires surrender, something I had always incorrectly perceived as weakness. I had to understand that you can’t stop feeling something out of sheer willpower. Surrender was absolutely necessary.

Letting It Go

In order to let go of my resentments, I had to first identify the people who caused me to have these feelings. Since resentments stem from “real or imagined grievances”, I discovered that it’s common to resent people who are closest to you since you have the most history with them, and therefore, more opportunities to find grievances and build resentments.

Awareness of who I had built up resentments towards was the first step in recognizing where my resentments were coming from, which ultimately allowed me to let them go and experience the freedom of living without those negative feelings that had become such a constant in my life.

However, I also learned that sometimes self-sabotage rears its ugly head, and our egos don’t allow us to admit some of our most deep seated and toxic resentments. The following is a list of the five most common sources of resentment that most people experience without even realizing it.

5 Common Targets of Resentment

1. Parents

As an adult, it’s no fun to admit that you’re still affected by things that happened when you were younger. Parents often make decisions (such as getting divorced, or switching schools) that affect their children’s lives all the way into adulthood. I had a parent who struggled with addiction while I was young. I didn’t think I would ever stop resenting them, but I followed the advice of a mentor anyways and did all the little exercises this person told me to do, and slowly all the writing and talking finally alleviated one of my biggest resentments. It didn’t happen overnight, but now it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Take an honest look into your childhood and ask yourself if you are still harboring feelings against your parents or primary caregivers, this will bring you one step closer to letting go and living a fuller life.

2. Past and Current Partners

Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and former romantic partners are an almost guaranteed source of resentment for most people. It is usually the people we spend most of our time with, that we create unconscious resentments towards. You’ve probably heard of the term “baggage” when it comes to dating. “He has too much baggage” or “I don’t want someone with a lot of baggage” are common expressions. You might not realize it, but “baggage” usually translates directly into resentment. Letting go of the resentments you’ve built up over the years from failed relationships or unresolved issues in your current one, will give you freedom and allow you to fully invest in a future relationship. Just because your ex hurt you, doesn’t mean that its healthy to keep hurting yourself by holding those poisonous resentments inside.

3. Co-workers

Aside from home, we spend the majority of our time at work. The office is often seen as an arena for competition and personal advancement. This potentially antagonistic atmosphere can be a breeding ground for resentment. If you have a legitimate issue with someone, it’s better to address your concern in a timely fashion either with that specific person, or in a conflict-resolution meeting mediated by a qualified representative of the Human Resources department. You can’t effectively climb up through the professional ranks if you are being weighed down by resentments you are holding onto against your co-workers. Keep your side of the street clean, and focus on moving forward instead of falling back into negative thinking.

4. Strangers

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, aside from the people we are closest to, total strangers can also be a common source of resentment. Something about the cloak of anonymity makes people feel safe in expressing their emotions against someone they have never met. That guy who cut you off on the way to work, the customer who left you a lousy tip, or the person who jumped in front of you in line at the bank, acts like this committed by strangers can create a well of wrath within us that we are just dying to unleash onto the world. Some people chalk it up to “having road rage” or “being high strung” but the reality is that you are probably susceptible to catching quick resentments. Don’t let something small like losing a parking spot ruin your day and create unjustified enemies in your mind.

5. Large Groups of People

When I first undertook the task of listing all my resentments on paper, I was shocked at how many resentments I had towards entire populations of people or institutions in general. I grew up very poor, and have always been slightly jealous of people who were born into wealthy families. For me, this translated into an overarching resentment towards all rich people. My whole life I viewed the distribution of wealth as an egregious injustice and wanted nothing to do with the people who benefited from this type of system. After doing some work on resentments, I now realize this is a short sighted outlook, and that I was stereotyping an entire group of people, and holding them accountable for the circumstances I was born into.

Taking stock of your resentments means honestly evaluating your own prejudices. Letting go of resentments is usually a process that will include eliminating grudges against certain groups of people and alleviating acrimony towards entire institutions like a school or church you used to attend.

Conclusion

This is certainly not an all inclusive list, and not everybody has resentments in these areas of their lives. But if you harbor resentment in these areas, they are a great palce to start. This is what I have found to be true in my own experience, and in the experiences that have been shared with me by other people.

The process of letting go of resentments will be unique to each person. Some people chose to find a 12 step based support group and work through their resentments with the help of a sponsor. Some people seek outside help in the form of psychiatry. For others, this is a personal process completed in solitude.

I feel it should also be noted that in many cases, feelings of resentment are completely understandable, and are a normal part of processing trauma. Not all grievances are “perceived”. Some are very real, and are the result of significant trauma or abuse. Letting go of resentment does not mean that you must tolerate bad behavior. It means that you are no longer allowing a person or situation to have power over you. Letting go of resentments is a personal process to help yourself live the happy, fulfilled life you deserve.

Photo by megan leetz

Jessica Ruane

Jessica Ruane is a freelance blogger specializing in self help, dating, and safety. To follow Jessica's works, please follow her main client's twitter page, or visit Instant Checkmate on LinkedIn.

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27 Comments

  1. The “Large Groups of People” was an eye-opener to me. When I figured out that I resented certain groups, I had to dig deep down to answer why. Very educating.

    Great post.

    Thanks,
    Dan Garner
    ZenPresence.com

    Reply
    • Thanks Dan! I worked on my resentments through a 12 step program. We call it “taking inventory”. It was really interesting to realize how I was judging and harboring resentments against entire communities (but very difficult to admit).

      From talking to others who have worked a fourth step, it seems that this type of resentment is actually pretty common, no matter how opened minded we think we are.

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you got something out of my article.

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  2. Very cool. I would say we’ve all gone through at least one of these at one time or another in our lives. To me, a good rule of thumb is to always be happy for people for their achievements and to always have gratitude for the things you have been able to achieve in your own life. This will help you stay away from the negative feelings that come with things like envy and entitlement.

    Reply
    • I agree Cody. For me, I couldn’t feel gratitude until I dealt with all the resentments I had against the world, and the people in my life.

      I feel that as long as I stay “open, honest, and willing” I will continue to deepen my understanding of gratitude and avoid fear based behaviors.

      Thanks for your comment!

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  3. I’ve learned that the best way to move forward is to simply forgive everyone who has ever wronged you and everyone who will wrong you. Getting wronged in life is inevitable unless you live under a rock, so it is always better to forgive (release your negative energy) and move on. Thanks for writing such an awesome post, Jessica!

    Reply
    • Thanks Kevin! I agree, forgiveness is an important part of letting go of resentments. Something that is definitely easier said that done!

      Thanks for the comment!

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  4. Resentment keeps us stuck and thinking negative, its tough to snap out of it, especially is there are constant -‘ve things we have occur daily or like in my case am living with chronic pain and it reminds me every move I make … literally. 24hours a day. changing our perception is not easy, but with practice + our own coping techniques it may be better, let it go, move on, relax, I am not sure what the solution is but websites like this sure will help us each learn to cope.

    Reply
  5. Letting go, as you said, Jessica, may be hard to do, but it is one of the most effective ways of finding happiness. A speaker called Craig Valentine describes resentment in this way: No-one has ever died from a snake bite – it’s the venom that actually kills you. And so it is with resentment – living it over and over is what does the damage. I believe that it often translates into physical symptoms like arthritis.

    I have found writing to be very effective in letting go – describe the pain and the heartache in as much detail as possible and write for as long as possible. Then burn/ destroy the page, watching mindfully. Write again on the joy of your life without the burden.

    http://www.coach4life.co.za/blog

    Reply
    • Kirsten,

      It is so interesting that you mentioned writing about a painful experience and burning it. That is exactly what I did! As I mentioned in an previous comment, I worked through resentments in a 12 step program with a sponser. I had a deep seeded resentment against a family member and my sponser had me write a letter to this person describing all the ways they hurt me, ect. then I read it to her out loud, and we burned the letter together. This really helped me, and is a great suggestion. Thank you for reminding me of that!

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  6. Thanks for sharing this Jessica. I recently heard someone talk about how hard it was for her to let go of grief. In letting go of grieving she felt like she had to finally let go of the person she loved. Guilt came up big time then.

    Reply
    • Beryl,

      Ah yes, those awful feeling like guilt, shame, fear, anger are almost always connected to resentments. It’s certainly an ongoing process.

      Thanks for your comment!

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  7. That’s very true that letting go of resentment means that you no longer allow a person or institution to have power over you.

    So many times we give away our power to others and then blame them for our misfortune. When in reality all we have to do is “let go” and were able to take back our own personal power.

    This is a great article. I’ve never made a list of my resentments, so I don’t actually know who or what I resent. But I do know that I have some that I need to let go of. Today I will make that list so that I can personally free myself.

    Because letting go is a freeing of your mind and spirit. And it’s a totally self-centered activity. One that is worth pursuing.

    Reply
    • Michelle,

      Thank you for your feedback. I hope making your list was helpful! If anything it promotes awareness and is definitely worth pursuing.

      I hope you got some freedom and were able to “let go” of what you needed to.

      Thank you for the comment, best of luck on your journey!

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  8. This topic is very useful for me as i m going through the same feelings right now. I want to get over these feelings soon. Thanx

    Reply
  9. Thank you so much for all the thoughtful comments!

    I didn’t realize that this post would end up being so personal, and I’m truly grateful for the encouraging feedback. This blog has a fantastic sense of community, and I feel very safe and comfortable sharing my story here.

    Many thanks to Peter for creating such an awesome space, and to all the readers who make this a wonderful community to belong to.

    You all inspire me to be better.

    Reply
  10. Great post Jessica, I will reflect on what you have written here as I get on with the rest of my day of mindful action.

    One thing that popped into my mind when I read this is that often resentment isn’t about being wronged ~ real or imagined ~ by someone else but about being jealous of their successes instead of being realistic about our own shortcomings.

    Reply
    • Colleen,

      That is so true. The way I was taught to think of resentment, is to ask yourself if you have any negative feeling towards someone or something. This can be anything from wishing someone harm, to just being uncomfortable arounf them. Jelousy definitely falls into that category.

      Thanks for your comment!

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  11. hadn’t realized that it was possible to resent groups or communities. this post has really broadened my perspective. thank you for writing this, Jessica

    Reply
    • Kola,

      I didn’t realize that either until I started writing my resentment inventory. It seems like that particular section resonated with a lot of people.

      Thank you for letting me know what you thought!

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  12. Don’t be a doormat and let people walk all over you … Get Even with the people that you resent … and then let go. –Donald Trump

    Reply
  13. i loved your post
    many people resent their parents these days , this topic is becoming more and more important with the presence all of those people around carrying such negative emotions
    very helpful post

    Reply
  14. One of the things I saw you writing about sort of “below the surface” or between the lines was the fact that all these seem to point to another resentment. Resenting yourself. Resenting things you did, past decisions you made, where you live, etc.

    I think when we forgive ourselves and stop resenting at that level, the ability to forgive others and let go of those resentments becomes easier and maybe even automatic!

    Great post. Very insightful and necessary for a happy, productive life, Jessica.

    Reply
    • Carmelo,

      You are absolutely right. I’ve always thought of resentments as the excess anger that is overflowing from inside ourselves.

      I didn’t talk about this in the post, but when you work on resentments through a 12 step program, the first thing you have to do is forgive the resentments you have towards yourself.

      Thank you for reminding of self-resentment, that is certainly something I should have included in this post.

      Thank you for such an insightful comment.

      -Jessica-

      Reply
  15. Awesome stuff, I will be sure to remember this next time I start to feel resentment. The stranger one was totally me, and I am going to watch that closely.

    Reply
    • Tony,

      I know, I’m sure we are all guilty of targeting negative emotions at strangers. (I think that’s called projecting?) When I don’t do the things I need to do to stay spiritually fit, I find myself getting angery at strangers a lot more.

      Thanks for your comment!!

      -Jessica

      Reply
  16. thank you for the post. i definitely hold resentment towards my parents. a few people have mentioned ’12 steps’ to get over the feelings of resentment. what are those 12 steps? thank you …

    Reply
  17. “Letting go of resentment requires surrender, something I had always incorrectly perceived as weakness. I had to understand that you can’t stop feeling something out of sheer willpower. Surrender was absolutely necessary.”

    I dated a man for 6 years, the relationship ended 8 years ago. The relationship started as one If the greatest loves of my life but ended with years of emotional abuse. I’m now happily married to a wonderful man, but still harbor deep resentment against myself and my ex for reasons I can barely describe. I still have nightmares about him.

    Needless to say, what you said/I quoted above is the clearest way I can explain why I haven’t moved on (and also something I didn’t realize, so thank you). Easier said than done, but I’m terrified to “surrender” because it feels like I’m giving in, and thus I can’t forgive, and continue to resent. It’s exhausting at times. My only hope is this realization will lead to true forgiveness of him and myself.

    (Thank you)

    Reply

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