It’s usually not my intention to allow the introduction to direct the content for a podcast, but I felt like that needed to happen today. I want to share a couple of stories with you that are examples of why leaders can’t afford the high cost of resentment.
And while this might be a little longer than usual, I think it’s important because I want to give you an example of what I’m talking about. After a meeting this week, I wanted to grab a few mins at the gym before heading home. So, I jumped in the truck and headed toward the gym. At the intersection where the gym is located, there had been a serious accident. Several vehicles were on tow trucks and one of them facing the wrong direction toward oncoming traffic. So obviously it was significant.
Even as I’m telling you this, my heart goes out to the people who were involved. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an accident, but it’s a terrible feeling – especially if you caused it! There were people traumatized sitting on the sidewalk being attended to by emergency personnel. Shell-shocked is a good way to describe the scene with many tears. I don’t expect this was done on purpose and whether texting, running a light, or distracted by someone in the car, or a favorite song on the radio, it’s likely that someone regrets a moment of inattention to the most important thing we can do while driving: drive!
So I couldn’t reach the gym because they were redirecting traffic. I turned right, went up a couple of blocks, and made a u-turn. In the midst of all of this, I had not realized that there was also road construction happening right before that intersection as well.
So I make my u-turn and they have barriers set up to direct traffic into a single lane (it’s a three-lane road) while they are working on spot paving repairs for two of the lanes. There’s a break in the barriers so it looks like I can turn right out of this left-hand lane into the parking lot for the center where my gym is located.
So I pass some of the road construction equipment and cross through the break in the barrier ONLY TO REALIZE THAT THE ENTRANCE HAS FOUR CONES ACROSS IT PREVENTING ACCESS! Man, I’m in a mess now. I can’t get back out to the left lane I was in. There’s construction in front of me and behind me.
Additionally, there are two or three cars behind me trying to do the same thing I’m doing! At this point, I know that I made a big mistake. So I do the only thing I can. I get out of the truck and move two cones so I can enter the parking lot. I didn’t put the cones back because I knew the other couple of cars were coming in behind me.
By the way, did I mention how foolish I felt at this instant? Major OOPS! As I’m getting back into the truck, I see one of the road construction guys and I can see he’s pretty upset. I can’t hear him, but I see him on the bucket loader throwing his hands up in the air like “what the heck are you doing idiot?” So I yelled “Sorry!” and then pulled in and parked.
Now I could have left it there. But instead, I made the incredibly long walk back across the parking lot to the area where they were working. The cones were back in place (I suspect one of the crew took care of that). I saw the guy on the bucket loader and approached. I was able to explain that I didn’t realize the entrance was closed and offered my apology again. He was fine, but it was awkward for me.
As a leader, you always own your mistakes. If you don’t, then you leave situations like that creating misrepresentations. What do you mean? I mean this: if I don’t own it, then the guy on the front-end loader thinks all drivers are idiots who don’t care about the safety of themselves or the people working the project.
If I don’t own it, then I think all construction workers are easy to aggravate and have zero tolerance for mistakes made by drivers who are in an unfamiliar situation. Neither of these misrepresentations is accurate. In this instance, I was a bonehead.
Since I have significant safety training, in hindsight, I recognize the mistake. I should have gone to the intersection, turned right, and turned right again into the parking lot. Clearly, it would have been a better choice than my apparent short-cut that became a long-cut.
This is a rather trivial example and a great analogy of what happens in our teams regularly. There are reasons for the circumstances we find ourselves in – and believe it or not, you don’t know the entire context. You have a limited perspective. My knowledge grew as I was exposed to more and more information. The initial accident was quite possibly the result of the construction.
I didn’t even know about the construction when I made my choice to u-turn and come back to the gym. Obviously, I didn’t know about the access to the parking lot being obstructed.
I make a mistake as a result of my ignorance, my lack of information. Imagine if, instead of owning it and the difficulty or danger that I created for others, I ignore it. Or worse, I pretend that it’s really how this should be done. My arrogance, ignorance, or stubbornness cause damage to the team’s ability to operate optimally.
As a leader, that’s not acceptable. When we allow excuses or blame to take the place of acknowledging what could be improved, what I should have done differently, trouble is coming. And there is a very real cost for not addressing these issues. When you allow resentment to persist, when you start to become a victim or nurse the wrongs that have been done to you, you change. And not for the better.
And here’s the irony. I mentioned this back in Episode 127: Overcoming Your Pain To Step Into Your Greatness. If you missed it, make a note and go back to listen to it. The irony is this: by hanging on to resentment, you are giving another person control over your life. That is the antithesis, the very opposite, of leadership. Leaders own their results.
So don’t take my word for it. Take a look at what Dr. Leon Seltzer said is the cost of resentment in an article he wrote for Psychology Today:
- Prolongs mental and emotional pain—and may even exacerbate it
- Leads to long-lasting anxiety and/or depression
- Precipitates vengeful acts that put you at further risk for being hurt or victimized—and possibly engulf you in a never-ending, self-defeating cycle of getting even
- Prevents you from experiencing the potential joys of living fully in the present—vs. dwelling self-righteously on the past wrongs inflicted on you
- Creates or deepens an attitude of distrust and cynicism—qualities that contribute to hostility and paranoid thinking, as well as an overall sense of pessimism. Such a bleak perspective prompts others to turn away from you!
- Interferes with your cultivating healthy, satisfying relationships, and lead you to doubt, or disparage, your connection to others
- Compromises or weakens your higher ideals, and adversely impacts your personal search for purpose and meaning in life
- Robs you of vital energy far better employed to help you realize your desires, or achieve goals that you coveted earlier
- Undermine your physical health. The chronic anger that is bitterness can raise your stress baseline, thereby taxing your immune system
- Blinds you from recognizing your own role, or responsibility, in possibly having been vindictively harmed by another
- By keeping you in a paradoxical state of “vengeful bondage,” erodes your sense of well-being.
Many of those should cause you to shudder. The cost is too high to drag around your resentment. You can’t afford it. It will cause your emotional bankruptcy. So stop.
Okay, maybe you say “You are convincing me that there is a better way.” But how do I let go of these things that caused real hurt, pain, and disadvantage? First, let me say that the pain you felt is real. You have been wronged. You were the recipient, in many cases, of physical, emotional, and psychological pain that you did not deserve.
I’m not advocating that you should pretend like it didn’t happen. What I am advocating is that you shift away from resentment and toward forgiveness. Remember, this is about revoking control that you give to others when you hang onto anger, resentment, and bitterness. Learn from it, don’t allow it to repeat (to the extent that it is within your control).
This is a big topic and difficult to treat in a matter of a few minutes. So rather than hurry up and offer a few quick ideas to handle resentment, I’m going to be more thorough. I will dedicate the episode next week to move past resentment and take back control of your future. Until then, remember these words from the former President of Poland, Lech Walesa:
It is hardly possible to build anything if frustration, bitterness, and a mood of helplessness prevail.Lech Walesa
It’s worthy of our time and attention. If you displace resentment, you open yourself to greater potential. Don’t miss next week!
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