I’m excited about today’s episode. Last week, in Episode 136, I talked about why leaders can’t afford the high cost of resentment. Well, today I’m going to show you how to move past resentment to take control of your future.
Initially, you might be wondering why this matters. It’s a reasonable question. Furthermore, it would appear that many people have used resentment as a form of motivation. Instead of getting past resentment, it seems that storing it up fueled their success.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t work out the way you might think. Imagine that one person who you have always sought approval from – the one who you looked up to, admired, or revered the most. The one who you dreamed of getting a “great job” or an “I’m proud of you” or an “I love you” and truly meant it when they said it.
Instead, that one told you that you would never amount to anything. That one crushed your spirit verbally, emotionally, and physically. That one not only made you feel worthless but also made sure to point out every single action you took that validated their assessment of you: worthless.
Listen to me: no amount of achievement, whatever that looks like to you, will remove the sting of those words. As a result, no amount of money, accolades, trophies, recognition, or publicity can make up for what you wanted to hear from that person. It’s because you are designed to be relational. The other stuff is secondary – I didn’t say it doesn’t matter; I’m saying that people matter and how they behave toward us matters.
Because no matter how much fuel you have to stoke the fire of performance and achievement, you are actually allowing someone else to control your future. And that fuel is inexhaustible. In other words, you will never reach a level of performance that you can look back and say, “There – now I know I’m valuable to you. Or “There, now I know you will love me.”
Why? Because you can’t control what someone else does, says, or thinks as a result of your actions. If that person that you can’t please dies tomorrow, are you done living because now you have no one to prove wrong? Of course not. What I’m advocating is that there’s a better way. But you will have to move past resentment to take back control of your future. So trust me, you have a future worth living!
So to break it down, I’m going to summarize parts of a brilliant post written 10 years ago by James J. Messina. The title of the post is Handling Resentment. If this doesn’t help you to move past resentment, then I want you to let me know.
First, what is it? How can we define resentment? We need to know what it looks like if we are going to move past resentment. Consider the following:
- harboring animosity against a person or group of people whom I feel has mistreated me
- anger over a negative event earlier in life that I have not taken time to resolve
- seething, aching, emotional turmoil I feel whenever a certain person is present or a past event comes up in discussion
- feeling unjustly victimized with no resolution to the problem or simply suffering in silence
Mr. Messina refers to it as a cancer that robs you of contentment in your life and could potentially be the source of your depression. You have to deal with it because it can destroy you.
So, how does it start? There are so many ways because as humans, we are really good at hurting each other! Think about these:
- accepting negative treatment from others passively, never expressing negative feelings about it
- agreeing to do something for others while feeling taken for granted or taken advantage of
- seeing others succeed who have not worked as hard as I have
- my good work or competency goes without recognition while others who are more in favor get that recognition I crave
- feeling embarrassment as a result of someone intentionally belittling me
- experiencing consistent rejection, lack of approval, and abandonment by another
- being the object of discrimination or prejudice
- trying my best to please someone but no matter how well I did, it was never good enough
Okay, so we now know what it looks like and how it starts. How does it affect me?
- I’m touchy or on edge when I’m around or think of the one I resent
- I deny any anger or hatred against those whom I resent
- feel angry when the one I resent gets recognition or accolades
- seemingly stuck in my efforts to grow as a person
- refuse to forgive past offenses and hurts
- can’t get on with my life
- will not open up to trust others, especially in new relationships
Does this sound like the kind of person you can’t wait to be around? If you had to choose who you would spend time with, would you choose this person? Is this the one you would select to learn from or to model behavior you want to emulate? Of course not!
James points out that all of this culminates in irrational thinking. Is it any surprise then that we start thinking everyone is out to get me? That no one wants me to succeed? Maybe we take it one step further: others are actively working against me so that I will fail.
It’s all about who you know. I’m without merit or value, an utter and complete failure. Actually, I’m guaranteed to be a failure in anything I do. Wow, I hope you find yourself in some of these thoughts. They are contagious and breed without stopping…until you stop them.
Get a grip on yourself. I said in the previous episode that leaders own their results. And we certainly don’t allow others to control our future. Don’t allow yourself to abdicate responsibility for your life. Everyone else is not to blame for my life. You are an overcomer, so act like one!
It doesn’t do any good to talk about what resentment looks like without talking about how to move past resentment and regain control. If you aren’t helpless, then what can you do?
Look for it! Where is resentment hiding? What is your commitment level to moving past resentment? It’s more comfortable to stay where you’re at and continue to ruminate on your negative emotions. Forgiveness is hard. I don’t think you can or should forget, but I do think you choose to forgive.
Am I stuck because of the resentment I feel? Here’s another great challenge. Can I list the people or events that I resent? Am I willing to work to forgive that person or myself for allowing it? How would it feel to let go of that? I promise you that there is peace on the other side of forgiveness.
The crazy part is that we have shackled ourselves to our pain. The great news is that you can also free yourself! You don’t have to look to others for approval or recognition. Get it from yourself! Set a goal and achieve it. Look at the innumerable resources available to improve your self-esteem.
No one can stop you from making a better you! Choose one thing. Decide that you are going to improve one aspect of your life and do it. Nothing is stopping you. Affirm yourself – yes, tell yourself how great you are. I’m not talking about arrogance, I’m talking about countering all the negative crap you’ve been pumping into your head and heart.
Change it! Visualize and imagine what it feels like to be successful at this one thing you have chosen. Picture how it feels to be happy with yourself! What does it feel like to be a winner? Not because you got the promotion, not because you lost the weight, not because you made the team, you win because you are working on being the best you that you can be. Anyone can do that!
Is it easy? No, if it was easy you wouldn’t even be in this position to start with. Don’t kid yourself. You spent years, maybe decades, building the belief system you have in place right now. You aren’t going to dismantle that overnight. And you probably aren’t going to be able to do it alone.
You need people that you can rely on to be honest with you. Maybe it’s a group of close friends, maybe it’s a spouse, maybe it’s a counselor, psychologist, coach, or therapist. What you don’t need are enablers. You know who I’m talking about. You don’t need to be running to bitter, angry, hostile people for advice on how to deal with your resentment.
So if you don’t have a pen, then you will need to check out the show notes because I’m going to give you the five steps that Mr. Messina recommends to move past resentment.
Step 1: Identify who the people are that I resent and what they did to make me resentful. Write it down, no shortcuts. As I write each one down, ask
- How real or imagined are these offenses?
- What has the specific resentment against each of these people done to my attitude about me and my future?
- How paralyzed am I in my efforts toward personal growth by the resentment I carry toward each of these people?
Step 2: Develop a new way of looking at my past, present and future life. To do this, I need to write down the answer to the following questions:
- What irrational thinking am I locked into because of my resentment?
- How will ridding myself of resentment help me to develop a positive belief system in my life?
- How can I loosen the bonds and work out the anger over those I resent?
- What blocks my attempts to express my anger openly?
- How hard am I working at overcoming my blocks to anger?
- What new behavior do I need to develop to freely express my anger and rid myself of energy-draining resentment?
- What new rational thinking do I need to develop to overcome the negative impact of my resentment?
- How will my life be positively impacted by getting rid of my resentment?
- What new behavior do I need to develop to ensure that new resentment doesn’t arise?
- What new attitudes and approaches do I need to develop after ridding myself of resentment?
Step 3: Now that I’ve considered a change in attitude and belief system, I need to:
- Write a letter (I will never send these letters so I can be brutally honest and straight forward in them) to each person I resent. In it list all real or imagined offenses.
- Try to explain why each person treated me badly. Was it real or imagined?
- Forgive each person, letting go of the offenses
Step 4: Once I’ve let go of all of my resentment, visualize my life, present and future, without the negative impact of resentment. Write this vision down and affirm its reality daily.
Step 5: If I am still bogged down by the negative effects of resentment, then I need to go back to Step 1 and begin again.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of work Mark. I know. That’s because it is a lot of work. And as a result of this work, you will move past resentment and take back control of your future. So, yeah, it’s not easy. What price are you willing to pay for relief?
My sincere thanks to Mr. James Messina for posting his article. Check it out (the link is in the show notes) when you have a moment. Let’s commit to move past resentment – life is too short and you are too awesome to allow others to control your future.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
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Now, go lead like someone you would want to follow!