I heard a podcast on resentment today and it really hit home for me. I think it’s something so many of us deal with. Brene Brown defines resentment as “the feeling of frustration, judgment, anger, ‘better than,’ and/or hidden envy related to perceived unfairness or injustice” Resentment happens when we have expectations that we don’t communicate and are not met and we then harbor resentment against that person for not meeting our need. It can also come when we are asked to do something we don’t want to do or don’t agree with but we give in instead of saying no. Can I hear an Amen? Anyone else guilty of doing something you don’t really want to do because you don’t want to rock the boat? Or worse is we have been taught we aren’t allowed to say “no” because we must not upset others or that having our own opinions or wants are not allowed. This happens particularly to women. I feel like men are, on the whole, better at saying no, and allowed to say no more often without judgement. It also happens when you stuff down feelings of anger or hurt instead of dealing with them head on. It’s what I have heard called “toxic positivity”. We have been taught at times, particularly in Christian circles, that one needs to be positive all the time, don’t dwell on or even have negative emotions because that’s not Christlike. And so we stuff those down and don’t acknowledge them and it breeds resentment. We can have resentment against all types of people in our lives our spouses, kids, parents, friends, leaders and even God.
So how do you know when you have resentment? Here are some signs:
- clamming up: refusing to talk about an issue. (Guilty)
- using generalized statements like always or never. (Guilty)
- being passive aggressive. (it’s my spiritual gift)
- comparing a relationship to some else’s
- feeling hopeless about conflicts (guilty)
- focusing only on fairness
- complaining excessively
- explosive anger (yikes)
Some described resentment as leaking anger. I totally feel that. One tell for me is I get overly angry about stuff that is not important. Kids fail to run the dishwasher and then we have no clean dishes and I start yelling about people. The anger doesn’t match the situation. Then I have to look at myself and ask what my real issue is. Usually it’s resentment. In this example maybe I feel resentment because I feel like I always have to do everything around the house and as a result I need to better communicate my need for help. I have concluded that I have resentment because I fail to communicate boundaries or needs. I grew up thinking I shouldn’t have needs and that I should be independent. That’s unhealthy. I also think people should instinctively know what I need, particularly those closest to me and that’s unfair. So how do we fix this well of resentment?
- Choose discomfort over resentment. Practice setting boundaries and saying ‘no’. Don’t volunteer for something you don’t actually want to do or can do just because you feel like you should. No, is a complete sentence.
- Journal about your resentment. Let it all out. Write whatever comes to mind. Do it regularly.
- Break out of the norm. Take a break, go to a quiet place and allow yourself to break out of the routine of life to really sit and think about what is bothering you. Slow down and contemplate.
- Have hard conversations with those you love about your resentment and then do better about communicating needs or wants in the future.
I have not got this all figured out yet, quite the opposite. This feels like a overwhelming journey to me to dig into this well of mess of resentment. It’s scary and I don’t know what is all in there, but I do know it’s poisoning my relationships. It leaks out sometimes in anger or gossip. And really I’m only hurting myself by not dealing with it.
“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” Brene Brown
Something to contemplate today as you examine your feelings.