Resentful – How can I stop this feeling?

resentfulI suppose it is natural for us to feel resentful when others demean us, frustrate us or do us harm. I feel resentful about how Sharon spoke to me. Not what she said, but how she said it – shouting and slamming the phone down. It’s not as if this were a one-off: there have been several angry outbursts lately. I keep thinking about how unfair she is being.

Yet people say how wonderful she is. It seems as if no-one but myself knows what she is really like. I have started to imagine her making a fool of herself and showing herself up – then others will see her poor self-control and feel about her the same way as I do. Perhaps she’ll get the boot. Part of me thinks ‘Let’s hope so, I don’t want to see her again.’

At the same time another part of me seem to dimly realize that it is unhealthy to allow my hurt feelings to smart for too long.

Do you recognise this kind of resentful feeling in yourself? Do you ever find yourself occasionally imagining getting your own back on someone who has offended you? Such feelings can fester for a long time and start to eat away at a relaxed and composed state of mind.

It all starts when you feel upset about what someone says or does. Maybe you are uncomfortable about directly complaining to that individual or perhaps you have had little chance to do so. From a spiritual perspective, I would suggest that if you open yourself to an unforgiving spirit then you will entertain resentful blaming thoughts which stew and spoil future communication.

You may find yourself engaging in private resentful thoughts that even end up turning into vindictive fantasy. And before you know it, you are feeling so tense and irritated with someone that your relationship goes from bad to worse.

The question arises how can you stop feeling so resentful?

Feeling less resentful by not retaliating

Surely if you start to retaliate this will damage your chances of putting aside resentful feeling?

The film Tit for Tat featuring Laurel and Hardy comes to mind. The two heroes open an electrical goods shop next door to Charlie’ grocery store. The comedy develops in the way the characters involved respond to each other. Charlie mistakenly thinks that Ollie is making advances towards his wife and damages a few items in Stan and Ollie’s shop. Resentfully, Stan and Ollie respond by destroying Charlie’s things and the confrontations continue eventually wreaking havoc in both stores.

This comic picture sadly mirrors the tragic events of history where reconciliation is prevented by the violence of retaliation.

At the time of writing we are in the middle of another nightmarish escalation of bloodshed in the Middle East with rockets sent into Israel aiming at indiscriminate killing of civilians and Israeli forces bombing buildings packed with civilians thought to harbour Hamas fighters. These are disproportionate responses to what preceded. Neither side seem interested in working towards a permanent peace. Israel wants security but is creating more enemies. We can only feel great sorrow for the despairing people in each community led by those who want to vent their resentful fury with no spirit of forgiveness in their hearts.

Finding a way out of this kind of mess is of course easier said than done. Stopping the retaliation can only be part of the answer.

Feeling less resentful by noticing anything that is good about the enemy

It is very difficult not to allow anger to rule one’s thoughts when you have been hurt. But I wonder whether another part of the answer is for those involved in conflict to take a step back from their resentful thoughts and search for new ways of thinking. Ways that don’t involve jumping to conclusions and seeing things in black and white.

I strongly believe that if you turn yourself towards a spirit of forgiveness then you can discover fairer and calmer ways of seeing a situation: a spirit that helps you try to see things from the point of view of those who have caused offence to you and that focuses on their good points and well-being as well as your own.

Feeling less resentful by considering one’s own faults

Don’t we all do something wrong at some time or another in our lives? I would suggest that it is easier to see the misdeeds of others, than face up to your own failings.

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ (Jesus Christ)

Isn’t getting irritated about someone else’s behaviour a way of turning a blind eye to one’s own faults?

It is uncomfortable examining one’s own weaknesses and mistakes – probably because we play the blame game; easier to accuse someone else than point the finger at oneself. But why look for blame anywhere? Why be judgmental about anyone including yourself?

When we see the need for forgiveness for our own blunders then I would suggest it is easier for us to accept that the enemy also needs forgiveness. If we ask for our own misconduct to be set aside and forgotten then does it not become possible to have a forgiving attitude towards others?

If you cannot pardon your our own wrongdoing then what chance have you of believing it is possible for you to excuse your foe?

From a religious angle, in holding a grudge we are cut off from sensing the divine spirit of compassion. As the Christian prayer says

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Getting angry isn’t the problem. Holding the anger and acting on it are the problems. When we start to consider the well-being of those who have angered us then our resentful feeling has no room within our hearts. I believe then we can swallow our injured pride and can ‘forgive and forget’.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Resentment – How to feel less of it?

resentmentHow would you feel, if, as part of your job, you had to shake hands with someone who probably ordered the murder of your cousin? A similar situation faced the Queen when she met former IRA commander Martin McGuiness. I would not be surprising is she had felt at least a little resentment.

The meeting was a good thing for the peace process in Northern Ireland where the thirty years of  ‘Troubles’ has cost 3,600 lives. However, McGuiness is reputedly the former IRA commander who authorised the blowing up of Lord Mountbatten in 1979. Did she inwardly feel resentment or did she feel a sense of acceptance? We will probably never know.

Tim Knatchbull,  Mountbatten’s grandson, writes in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, that McGinness and his Siin Féin allies ‘deserve enormous credit’ as a modernising ‘force for good’ in recent years.

Overcoming resentment when remorse is shown

Usually it is easier to let bygones be bygones when the person who has done you wrong shows real remorse. But how often does this actually happen? According to Max Hastings in the Daily mail newspaper, McGuiness has never made the smallest
admission of contrition for all the atrocities under his command as late as
1987, the year of the Eniskillen bombing.

How have you actually felt when driving home towards someone who dangerously cuts in front of you and drives off into the distance? Towards someone who is rude
to you or who shows inconsideration for you?

It seems that those individuals, who have had angry and hostile tendencies
throughout their lives, are more likely to harbour resentment, avoid their transgressor and fantasise some form of revenge. On the other hand survey polls show that a majority of people would like to feel less resentment yet report not knowing how to do so.

Benefits of reducing resentment

There is reason to believe that the regular practice of forgiveness can reduce anger, depression and stress, leading to greater feelings of hope, and confidence as
well as better relationships and physical health. Forgiving is thought to open
the heart to kindness, beauty, and love.

Here are some suggestions about how to feel more forgiving.

1. Get in touch with how you feel about what happened and why you are aggrieved and feeling resentment.

2. Make a decision to try to let go of the incident and your negative feelings towards the person who did you wrong.

3. Remember that your main feeling of distress is coming from what you are
thinking and feeling now rather than what the person did some little while ago
to offend or hurt you.

4. Forgo expecting people to behave according to your own rules and let them stay
free to do their own thing.

5. Think about the power over you that you are giving someone by attending to the
hurt they have caused you.

6. Consider the Christian prayer “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we
forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.” (Matt 6:12) How can we
feel forgiveness unless we are also willing to forgive?

7. Remember you are not in a position to judge someone as deserving of
condemnation for you do not know all the mitigating circumstances that provided
the context of their actions towards you. For example you may not be fully
aware of what is going on in their life to create stress, or their upbringing
with its standards of conduct and moral values.

8. Consider what worldly or selfish desires  in you that have been thwarted by the
other person and reconsider their importance. Pride been wounded? Well what’s
so bad about a little humility? Time wasted by someone? Never mind there is
plenty of time left in life to make up what was lost.

9. Doing well to others and forgetting their wrongdoing may not always be wise if
the behaviour is harmful and persists. Violence within the home and sexual
infidelity are two more serious examples. Acceptance of the other person’s
limitations rather than simply saying we forgive him or her may be a more
realistic goal if there is no remorse or effort to change.

10. In extreme cases sometimes it is better to part with someone who is persistently abusive. Consider receiving professional counselling if the decision is very difficult.

The spiritual philosopher and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg claimed to have
conscious communication with the spirits of dead people.  He points out that evil-minded spirits love to find fault and take pleasure at the thought of punishment. On the other hand there are angelic spirits who if they happen to notice anything bad in someone, make allowances for it. He says the attitude of looking for the good in someone is the essence of heaven.

I would say you couldn’t feel much resentment towards someone if you are busy looking for the good in him or her.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems