Resentment. We all have experienced the feeling of struggling to let go of anger towards ourselves or another person in our life. Buddha once said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot goal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”.
While this may be true, it can be a very difficult process to let go and allow acceptance to happen in your life. Anger is a valid emotion, its function is to take back power and be strong after we feel an injustice has occurred. If anger is consistent and not acknowledged we can become aggressive, self-shaming, provocative, aggressive, or even vengeful.
Before you understand the process of forgiveness. Let’s discuss the myths of what forgiveness is and is not. Many people believe forgiveness means reconciling a relationship. This is a myth. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean moving forward with the relationship in which you felt wronged by. Maybe it looks like setting a clear boundary with said person, or dissolving the relationship all together. Another myth I hear often in my practice is “If I forgive this person, I’m condoning the injustice and allowing the person to treat me this way in the future”. This is also a myth. By forgiving it is not granting mercy to the perpetrator, but allowing peace to and compassion towards yourself and the other person.
On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes we believe we have forgiven by saying “I’m sorry” or giving an apology, but we still are holding onto anger and resentment. Forgiveness can occur without ever speaking to the perpetrator, for instance clients with sexual abuse working towards forgiving their abusers or themselves in therapy settings. Forgiveness is an emotional change that starts a chain reaction of changed behaviors to increase quality of life for clients.
So how do you know if you are holding onto resentment? Some warning signs include:
-Ruminating thoughts of the injustice
-Fantasies of revenge
-Looking for evidence that your anger is valid and linking it to past incidents or behavior
The nature of resentment is that it is never only one incident. Resentment always extends into the past, and in severe cases carries into the future for instance if your extremely resentful you might say something like, “We’re doing OK now, but my birthday is coming up I know he/she will find something to screw it up then”.
If you’re holding onto that hot coal wishing for it to burn someone else, it may be time to put it down and acknowledge and validate your anger by talking to a professional. Forgiveness starts with you.
Contact Michelle Smith at 405-323-1786 for a free consultation for therapeutic services.