I read a quote by Deepak Chopra today of wisdom he had heard from Nelson Mandela:

“Having resentment against someone is like drinking poison and thinking it will kill your enemy.”

A truthful thought, a seemingly obvious thought, one I’ve heard in many ways many times before, but one I so often forget.  Now I don’t think I’m a person who holds deep rooted, long lasting resentments (and if there are some lurking within I’m not aware of them on a regular basis). I’m self aware enough and motivated enough to make myself let go of the resentments that have the danger of eating up my life long term.

When it comes to those little, daily, pernicious resentments that creep up and fester for a few moments without us having a chance to fully realize it, well, those resentments are a very regular part of my life.  The flash of resentment that flairs up when someone cancels a plan – forcing me to rearrange my schedule, when a client doesn’t provide me with the necessary information to complete an assignment – making me linger on a project that could have been completed days ago, when a stranger cuts in front of me in traffic, or when a loved one takes me or a task I’ve done for them for granted.

Whether there is justification behind the feeling of resentment that arises or not, as the quote states, that resentment does nothing to the other person.  It doesn’t harm them in any way.  It doesn’t express the reason why I feel the way I do.  It doesn’t explain the reason for my resentment in the hopes that in future the person would treat me with more respect or consideration.  It doesn’t do anything except to steal from my contentment in life and waste precious moments on ineffective negative emotions.  It slowly poisons my soul: little resentment by little resentment.

Unlike some of the big resentments that creep up, and that I have learned to deal with and let go of, I think the issue with those ‘little’ daily resentments is that I realize they are little, and much of the time I realize to talk to the offender about why I am not okay with their actions would only come across as ‘little’ and petty behaviour on my part – I would be viewed as too picky, inflexible, particular, or simply that I had not taken the time or had the ability to fully consider another’s situation and why they had taken the action that resulted in me feeling resentful.

Basically, I don’t want to be viewed negatively by the people I feel resentment for.  So, what options does that leave me with?  I think there are times when those little resentments arise that it is appropriate to talk to the ‘offender’ about their actions.  The majority of the time, however, the person it is most appropriate to talk to is probably me.  A lot of the time things that prompt those little flashes of resentment are largely out of my hands.  And so, I have the choice to feel that resentment and let it poison me for a time or I have the choice to acknowledge the action that caused it as wrong, or inappropriate, or inconsiderate in some way and then mentally say, “oh well,” and go about my day.  I have the choice, even in those quick moments, to let go of resentment and maybe – if I’m feeling really enlightened – take that moment as a reminder of some of the positive things that have happened in my day or week and of the people whose actions made them happen.  Maybe I’ll even realize that the person who prompted that one flair up of resentment and negativity has also prompted a half a dozen reasons to be thankful or appreciative.

Hmm…that’s a lot of words from one sentence…I guess I’ll see how I deal with the truth of those words in the days to come.

Dear readers, care to share any lessons you’ve learned about resentment or ways that you’re able to drop that particular poison before you even think of swallowing it down?

  1. Thanks for this article. It made me think about the times that I have held resentment towards others, and you are right that most of the time the resentment that we hold hurts us more than it hurts others, and we need to “let go of it”. It is difficult to know when we should discuss it with the other person or when we should not. As we all have found out from time to time, the other person often doesn’t even know or remember the incident which brought the resentment to us.

    • Absolutely! I’m so glad these words were a good reminder for you!

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