“Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.”
We all harbor resentment towards someone, and resentment often feels justified. We get caught up in obsessive thoughts about how the person has hurt us. We fantasize getting back at them. The possibility that their treatment of us will go unpunished seems unbearable.
Unfortunately, no matter how justified, resentment hurts no one but ourselves. It takes our focus away from what matters. It causes us to feed difficult feelings rather than letting them go. It can contribute to depression and poison relationships.
Letting go of resentment is easier said than done, especially knowing that it means the person you resent may go unpunished. That said, it is certainly possible.
Follow these 4 steps to let go of resentment.
1. Put yourself in their shoes
When letting go of resentment, you will need to tap into your empathy. Empathy is often spoken about as something that you either have or don’t have, but it is actually a practice you can cultivate. It begins with imagination and creativity.
The key is to remember that the person who hurt you probably believes they are in the right. Think about why they might feel this way, including how they have been hurt and how they have been let down.
You don’t need to be psychic or totally accurate. However, thinking about their perspective will begin the healing process in you.
2. Remember your values
For most people, one value stands above all others: do no harm. When we think about justice, we tend to forget about this value. After all, we are only setting things right. However, harming someone goes against your values, whether they deserve it or not. This is why justice often not only feels unsatisfying, but makes you feel worse.
Reminding yourself of your values helps you feel more at peace with who you are and takes your focus away from how you have been wronged.
3. Practice forgiveness
Letting go of retaliation is one thing, but can you manage to forgive the other person? Forgiveness does not mean forgetting that they hurt you. However, if you have been able to empathise, and if you have recognized that hurting them back is not an option, you can try taking it a step further.
Forgiveness means seeing the other person as a whole human being. As humans, we are all flawed. Every one of us sometimes betrays someone we love. That betrayal does not define us. Remember this when considering forgiving the person. Yes, they hurt you. But that is not who they are.
4. Change how you think of yourself
Finally, letting go of resentment is part of a change in how you think of yourself. All too often we define ourselves by our anger and grudges. Instead of thinking about the people we love and admire, and how we can change the world for the better, we obsess over those who have harmed us.
Letting go of resentment allows you to start thinking of yourself as someone forgiving. It allows you to stand in your values without anger or hatred. You start living a life that is more authentic, free of resentment’s poison.