Christian Counselor Spokane
We often don’t get the same resolution that movie characters do. But movies do speak to our experiences, including the feelings of being betrayed and the animosity that follows from that.
Resentment is a complex emotion that combines feelings of anger, disgust, and frustration You may not have been treated as dramatically as someone in a movie, but the feeling of resentment and animosity toward the people that have wronged you may be a familiar one. Where does resentment come from, and how can one move past that?
The roots and causes of resentment in relationships.
Resentment can occur in any type of relationship. Spouses can be resentful toward one another, a parent can resent their child, friends may resent one another, as may neighbors, siblings, and total strangers. One can even be resentful toward an entire group of people, or toward an entity such as an organization or firm. Those feelings of anger, disgust, and frustration can be felt for any number of things and people.
There can be one or several potential root causes for resentment. Sometimes, we feel resentment because we feel we’ve been taken advantage of by someone. Alternatively, if a person humiliates you by making fun of you in private or in public, that can also breed resentment. In other situations, resentment may begin to fester if you feel taken for granted or not appreciated for the work you do and the sacrifices you make.
In work and other settings, resentment may develop if you feel overlooked, or if others seem to receive special treatment; it may even develop if others take credit for what you’ve done and are rewarded on account of it. Resentment may also develop if someone hurts you and doesn’t acknowledge what they’ve done. That person carries on with their life as though nothing happened, while you carry the pain.
Resentment is rooted in being hurt in some way without remedy. Sometimes, we don’t voice our pain and the ways others hurt us, but that can still result in resentment if we hold a certain expectation that the other person should be more self-aware and conscious of the effects of their actions.
In other circumstances, we may voice our pain but still find no succor. That too can be fuel for resentment because they know you’re hurt but they aren’t making appropriate changes to their behavior to make amends. In this way, resentment is rooted in hurt and our expectations of others.
How resentment affects your relationships.
Resentment is a little bit like when a wild animal crawls under your porch and dies there. Resentment doesn’t stay contained in one area of your life, nor does it remain centered on the specific individual who inspired it. It seeps into everything, much like the smell of the deceased critter under your porch seems to be all over the place. Until you deal with it, everything will feel a little off.
Resentment can migrate across time and relationships, affecting people who had nothing to do with it in the first place. When you are carrying resentment, it affects you in several ways, including the following:
It makes you anxious. If you’re going to an event or a part of the city where you might meet that person who hurt you, it’ll make for a nerve-wracking time out. If the person is in your life, it means you feel triggered every day, and that’s not good for your mental and emotional health. Your physical health is also threatened by resentment, as it increases your risk of cardiac health issues and a weakened immune system.
It makes you an angry person .
You may be angry toward the person who hurt you, but it’s easy for that anger to permeate other areas of your life. If someone does something similar to what the other person did, or if they look similar, you might find yourself being short with them when you otherwise would not.
Your other relationships suffer.
What often happens in romantic relationships is that one partner that’s been hurt carries that hurt like baggage into their next relationship. The new partner now must carry the baggage from the previous relationship, such as diminished levels of trust, and lower levels of intimacy because vulnerability is affected by resentment.
Resentment sits like a stone in your heart, weighing down who you are at your core, and affecting everything in your life including your loved ones.
Why we stay resentful.
Even when we realize that our resentment is causing us distress, it’s possible to remain enmeshed in feelings of resentment. Why is this? There are several reasons that people choose to remain mired in resentment, and these include:
When you feel negatively toward someone for a certain amount of time, that resentment may begin to feel comfortable, like a well-worn shoe that fits easily. When you’ve been angry for a while, you get used to the feeling, and letting go of it may feel unnatural.
Forgiveness feels wrong.
We feel like forgiveness is an injustice and staying angry is a form of punishment for them. While we can’t forget what’s been done to us, we can forgive it. But we can take forgiveness to mean that we’re letting them off the hook and accepting what happened to us as okay.
Forgiveness isn’t an endorsement of bad behavior; rather, forgiveness is a voluntary and intentional choice to release someone from an emotional debt they have to pay to you. It’s the decision to release the desire for vengeance or to see them suffer. Instead of forgiving, we may choose to hold onto resentment because it feels like nursing those negative emotions is a form of being just and doing the right thing.
The aggravation continues unabated.
Resentment may continue because the aggravation itself continues. It’s one thing to let go of a hurt that occurred last year, but it’s another to forgive what was done yesterday and this morning again. The wells of resentment are replenished by wounds that continue to be inflicted.
How to move beyond resentment toward resolution and peace.
One of the main ways to move beyond resentment is to extend forgiveness to the offender. You’re not doing this for them, but for your own sake and that of your loved ones. The people that suffer the most from you holding onto resentment are you and those you love. Forgiving a perpetrator allows you to find peace and be able to invest more fully in those relationships.
If you are a believer, being able to forgive others and leave vengeance in God’s hands is a key component of walking faithfully with God (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:31-32; Galatians 5:13-26). Forgiveness releases you from the prison of your own negative emotions.
Beyond extending forgiveness, another tool to deal with resentment is to communicate when you’re hurt to the person that hurt you, where that is both safe and possible. Sometimes, people hurt you without meaning to. You can hold onto it as resentment but never actually confront the other person about what they did. You may be surprised to find that they were unaware of the impact of their actions, and they are willing to correct their behavior.
It is also helpful to adjust your expectations of others. Resentment can emerge because of being let down, and one way to address that is to have realistic expectations of others. People are often self-focused, and not everyone will love you or care about your well-being. Even with the best of intentions, your loved ones won’t always meet your expectations. Accepting this will help you deal with being let down more constructively.
Christian counseling to overcome resentment in relationships.
Another helpful tool is Christian counseling. Through talk therapy and other techniques, your counselor will help you work through your feelings of resentment and help provide you with tools for coping effectively with hurt and disappointment. Where you need help with forgiveness, your counselor can walk you through that process.
They can also help you develop good conflict-resolution skills, so your relationships don’t devolve into resentment. Your counselor will assist you in seeing how resentment affects you and your other relationships, equipping you to restore any relationships affected by those feelings of resentment.
If the bitterness of resentment has taken root in your life, reach out to a Christian counselor who will help you move beyond resentment and move toward the peace and wholeness that ought to characterize our relationships. Make an appointment with a counselor today to begin loosening the hold of resentment on your life and heart.
“Pensive Woman”, Courtesy of Mohammadreza alidoost, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stressed” Courtesy of Kateryna Hliznitsova, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Tabitha Turner, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.