How To Let Go Of Resentment: 7 No Nonsense Steps You Must Take

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People are flawed, complicated creatures. It’s easy to make wrong decisions because they are often so much easier than doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, the types of emotions that result from these decisions generally aren’t pleasant. Anger, sadness, and resentment are all common and expected.

Resentment, by definition, is a bitter indignation at being mistreated. That indignation may feel sharp, a painful reminder of being let down or betrayed by someone that you should have been able to trust.

It can also feel like the balance of the scales are off, where this person got away with their bad behavior while you have to deal with the repercussions.

We often fuel our own resentment by being stubborn and not accepting a situation for what it is.

And, yes, we know that acceptance and forgiveness are much easier said than done, especially if the person who did us harm is not sorry for their actions.

Forgiveness tends to be a misleading word in that context because we often view forgiveness as an absolution of a wrong action. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

As an example, consider Sarah, who grew up with her emotionally abusive mother, Claire. Is it right that Sarah was subjected to her mother’s abuse? No. Was it fair or just? Not at all. Does her mother care or accept responsibility for her actions? Also no.

So what is Sarah supposed to do with that situation? Is she just supposed to feed her own resentment? Live her life as a bitter and angry person? No, of course not.

And then there is Peter. Peter’s wife Linda had an affair for three years. She went behind his back and lied to him repeatedly before he found out about her infidelity. Linda betrayed Peter’s trust regularly and completely hit him out of nowhere when she was finally ready to leave.

What can Peter do about that? Let resentment for the way he was treated take over his life? Again, absolutely not.

There are plenty of people in the world like Claire and Linda. Chances are pretty good you’ve met some of them if you’re trying to figure out how to let go of resentment. They don’t always accept that what they did was wrong. Plenty of people just double-down on their wrong actions and never take responsibility.

Those in positions like Peter and Sarah cannot put their happiness and well-being in the hands of the people that mistreated them.

But maybe your resentment is not that personal. Maybe it’s something that had other forces at work…

Like, Jenna working hard at her place of employment, regularly clocking over-time and going above and beyond the call of duty for her boss. She applies for a promotion that she’s really looking forward to but doesn’t get it. It goes to someone who doesn’t seem to do nearly as much work, causing resentment for her boss, coworker, and job to grow.

It might be that Jenna was wronged and that her hard work was not rewarded. It might also be that Jenna didn’t understand the rules of the game that management was playing. All her hard work made her indispensable in her current position. They couldn’t promote her because no one else was working as hard as her, and she was doing the jobs of three people.

Is she right to be upset by that? Absolutely. But her manager doesn’t particularly care, and neither does the person who was promoted. After all, the job is still getting done.

The ability to work on and heal your own resentment will provide significant benefits to your mental and emotional health.

People are flawed, messy creatures who do dumb, sometimes terrible things all the time without giving a second thought to how their actions affect other people.

You absolutely cannot rely on them realizing their mistake, deciding they want to rectify it, and making amends. You’ll spend the rest of your life miserable and angry if you wait for that.

So, we’re going to give you some tips on working on and healing your own resentment.

1. Acknowledge and accept your resentment.

Honesty is the first step toward finding your release from resentment. You need to acknowledge what you’re feeling for what it is.

Something like, “I accept that I am angry and resentful because of xyz thing that happened. It’s unfair, and I shouldn’t have been treated that way.”

Don’t undermine or minimize those feelings. You don’t have to try to explain them away. They are valid, whatever it is you are feeling about the situation.

2. Identify what you can control in the situation.

You are not responsible for the wrong actions of other people. However, we are responsible for how we respond to those actions and what decisions we make.

What about the situation is under your control? What decisions were your responsibility to make?

Instead of leaving, let’s say Peter and Linda patch things up. She ends the affair, goes to counseling, works on their marriage, and decides to rebuild the trust.

About a year later, Linda ends up having another affair that Peter finds out about. On the one hand, it is admirable for Peter to want to heal that rift and come together with his wife.

On the other hand, that was his decision. Linda will need to own her infidelity, but Peter will need to accept what he can control in the situation. All he can control is his own decision on whether or not to try to work things out with his wife, whether it may be successful or not.

Peter had and made a wrong choice to try to fix things with his wife, which is understandable. Many people try to salvage their relationship in that kind of situation, particularly if their lives are intertwined as married couples generally are.

3. Take action on what you can control.

Once you identify what you can control, you can now choose to take action on it.

Sarah might want to confront her mother about how badly she’s been treated. Peter may want to confront and divorce Linda so he can move on with his life. Jenna may just end up looking for a new job to have the upward momentum that she wants.

A word of warning about confrontation: it is all well and good to try to confront people that have done you wrong, but it might not be the safe or correct option. An abusive person might respond with their own hostility or even violence.

Domestic situations can get very ugly, very quickly. People are often at their very worst when a relationship is coming apart, mainly if there are betrayal and resentment to go around. You may inadvertently end up giving the other person more fuel and ammunition to use against you.

Really stop and consider what benefit confrontation may give you. Don’t decide out of anger or pick a fight. And be prepared to accept that the other person accepts no responsibility for their actions and tries to blame it all on you. There’s a good chance they will.

4. Let go of that which you cannot control.

There will come a time when you are done wrong with no recourse, where it is all out of your control.

In those times, you have to let go of the things that you cannot control and that you may never get closure for. This acceptance stage is quite tricky and will likely take you a lot of time to work through.

When we experience resentment, we are often focused on the anger and the actions of whoever wronged us. To let that go, we have to shift the narrative to something within our power.

Sarah cannot control that her mother made many wrong actions.

Peter cannot control that Linda decided to have an affair.

Jenna cannot control that her boss chose someone else for advancement.

How can they rewrite their situations into healing and prosperity?

Sarah can choose empathy and sympathy for her mother, someone who is damaged enough to want to take the actions against her that she did. Claire has likely suffered a lot in her childhood and life to be the way that she is. That’s not an excuse, but it can be a reason.

Peter can choose neutrality instead of anger. He was living up to his vows and promise to his wife as best as he could. She is the one that stepped outside of the relationship instead of trying to find a way to work on it, an agreement she made when she said, “I do.”

And Jenna can accept her experience as a valuable life lesson. She now has personal experience in what happens when she puts her employer’s best interests over her own. She can take that wisdom with her and make better decisions in the future.

This choice to find empathy and acceptance – forgiveness – is not there to absolve other people of their wrongdoing. Forgiveness does not mean that you have to forget, accept bad behavior, or open yourself up to being harmed by that person more. Forgiveness, in this context without an apology, is for you to be able to accept the situation for what it is and let go of the ill-feeling instead of letting it fester.

Frankly, a lot of people aren’t that good. And plenty of them aren’t going to care that they hurt you because they are so wrapped up in their own little world. It’ll be much easier for you to be able to accept these people for who they are, choose to avoid them, and not let their wrong actions stay locked in your brain.

5. Make gratitude your antidote for resentment.

Gratitude is such a powerful tool for dispelling resentment, fostering hope, and creating peace in your life.

Though each example given above is deeply painful and upsetting, gratitude can help offset some of the negative emotions that will come from them.

There is no gratitude to be had by Sarah for the abuse she endured, but she survived. She is here now, she has the understanding of the adverse events that she went through, and she can use all of that to plot a better course of healing, peace, and happiness.

But to be unaware of the harm she suffered is to leave her vulnerable to repeating the cycle and being like her mother. It is ugly and painful, but it is something to be grateful for.

Peter’s life has been shattered by his wife’s actions. The choice to step out of the marriage was hers, but perhaps this is the wake-up call that Peter needed to invest more of his time and energy into keeping his relationships healthy.

Maybe the affair didn’t come out of the blue. Maybe Linda asked him to go to relationship counseling, create more time for their family, help out more around the house until finally she just gave up.

As painful as it is, this event may be a catalyst for personal growth to move Peter toward a healthier, more balanced life. That is something to be grateful for.

Though Jenna did not get the job that she had hoped for, she can be grateful that she now understands where she stands with her employer.

She now understands that there is a greater game at work than just work hard, and you’ll get ahead. Life rarely ever works that way. A mouse running on a wheel works hard, but it doesn’t get anywhere. She needs to play smart and work hard if she wants to get ahead. It’s not a pleasant realization, but still, it’s something to be grateful for.

Gratitude is powerful. It’s hard for negativity and resentment to coexist in the same space as gratitude. The more you can incorporate gratitude into your life, the easier it is to let go of the painful stings that come with living.

6. Use resentment as fuel for growth.

So you were wronged in one way or another. In some sense that makes you a victim. But if you are to ever let go of your resentment, you must not own the victim identity.

Resentment can fuel those victim-based thoughts and beliefs, or it can fuel more empowering beliefs instead. It’s up to you to choose.

As mentioned above, resentment can be turned into action regarding those things you have control over, and you most definitely have some control over your life going forward.

So whenever you need motivation to work on improving yourself or the circumstances of your life, turn to your resentment. Consider it as sticking two fingers up at whoever wronged you, or the world in general, and saying a loud “Screw you!”

Show them and everyone else how you are taking the high road and making something positive out of this negative situation, similar to the gratitude you sought in the previous point.

And as with all fuel, it will eventually burn out. You will reach a place where you have achieved something good and are in a better place mentally. The resentment will be gone – or greatly diminished – and in its place will be a better, stronger, more resilient you.

7. Address future wrongs early.

Resentment in one area of your life will often fuel resentments in other areas. It can even reignite resentments that you thought you had put to bed.

So throughout the process of letting go of resentment about a particular thing, and when moving forward in life, try to address wrongs soon after they happen.

Don’t allow one wrong to build upon another and another until you are a seething ball of anger and resentment once more. If something happens that you feel is unjust, act upon it and try to make peace with any wrongdoer. Finding a resolution early on will mean that the issue can be put to bed practically, but more importantly, emotionally.

In this way, you can remove your victim identity and replace it with one where you proactively deal with issues and conflict so as to avoid long term ill-feelings.

This goes for all forms of wrongdoing, but especially those that relate directly to your current, major source of pain and hurt.

Sarah needs to call out emotionally abusive acts from people other than her mother – both big and small – or they will simply remind her of her mother’s mistreatment of her. As much as she may deal with that main resentment, it may rear its ugly head if similar situations occur and are not dealt with.

Peter should not let little lies stand in his future relationships because they will only serve to raise the older issue of his wife having an affair. He should insist on honesty and clarity or he will end up resenting a new partner – or indeed friends or family members – for perpetuating the cycle of him being deceived.

Jenna ought to make it clear to her boss and any future bosses that she will not be taken for granted just because she works hard, toes the company line, and does a solid job. She should have healthy boundaries in place relating to the duties she is asked to do and the time she is willing to dedicate to her job. If her boss emails her at the weekend, she should feel able either to ignore it or tell her boss that it can be discussed on Monday.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.