4 Steps to Letting Go of Resentment
Have you ever held onto anger when you’ve been cut off by another car? I have, and it was’t a pretty sight. My stomach would knot, my chest felt like it was about to explode, and I would bless the driver with my middle finger. It was a personal attack on me. So personal, I knew they planned to cut me, Debbie Gill, off, on Friday, August 13, 1999, at the on ramp of Rte 1 and I-95 precisely at 4:46 pm! The anger and resentment overflowed within me. As a result, I took my rage out on unsuspecting and undeserving people, such as my spouse, friends, and parents.
There are many other ways I cultivated resentments: having expectations, trying to control others and not being able to, being betrayed by a lover or spouse, to name a few.
Needless to say, I wasn’t a pleasant person to be around. It wasn’t until the following year, when, after an 8-month relapse, that I understood the meaning of an expression from AA (not Buddha, as most people think), “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The quote I love the most is, “Resentment is when you’re an asshole in a bad neighborhood!” You resend the hurt over and over, the story gets bigger and bigger, and the “offender” has no clue; they’re off somewhere in the world having a great time! Now tell me, who’s hurting who?
How did I let go of the anger and resentment? It wasn’t easy, and may take time, but be patient with yourself. The following steps are the ones I took to overcome this significant barrier to peace and serenity:
Step 1. Follow Step 3 in the AA 12-step program: “Made a decision to turn our will and our life over to care of God as I understand Him.” This is a biggie, but it is the cornerstone of my letting go. “Let go and let God.”
Step 2. Realize you have a choice: hold onto the anger and resentment, ruminating about it, or focus your attention on the present moment. If it’s a person who’s harmed you, think of several redeeming qualities they have.
Step 3. In the Big Book of AA, there’s a wonderful story in the back called “Freedom From Bondage”. A very deep betrayal wounded me to the core, so much in fact, I wanted revenge. My sponsor told me to read this story. The gist of it is: “Get down on your knees and pray for that person – even if you don’t mean it. Do this every morning and night for two weeks,” and the resentment will begin to recede, which leads to:
Step 4. Forgiveness. You choose to forgive the other person, not for them, nor condoning what they did. But forgiveness is necessary for you to open your heart to love again. And my dear friend, love is all we need.