Time is precious. I don’t know about you, but I have squandered a lot of it away in the past due to unjustified anger and resentment.
Resentment: a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.
When I’m in resentment, I’m not in the moment. Anytime I’m not in this moment, I’m missing out on… well, life.
It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while.
–From Chapter 5, Pg. 66 of Alcoholics Anonymous
Think about how resentments occupy your time. They’re like a cancer eating away at moments which could be filled with joy. The next time you’re awake at 2:00 a.m. because you felt you’ve been wronged by someone, try driving by their house and see if their lights are on. Now, who is it really hurting? Resentment truly is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
OK, so we know resentment is bad, how do we stop it?
In How to Remember Today Years From Now, I shared an experience of how I was able to turn the beginning of a resentment into something amazingly spiritual and positive. By using practical prayer(practice), I am able to train my mind to be more altruistic then it naturally wants to be. Altruism is at the center of resentment reduction. It is natural to have our first thoughts be selfish and ask “what’s in it for me?” But here’s the real kicker, I finally figured out that a life based on self-centeredness is extremely unfulfilling. Healthy, loving relationships are what bring the most joy and fulfillment to our lives.
Regardless of the cause or reason, justified or not, resentment and anger rob us of our valuable time. I’m sure some people will say, “but sometimes anger is good, like if it motivates us to take action!” I disagree.
99% of the time, anger is based in fear, and decisions based in fear seldom promote spiritual or emotional growth. Now I’m not talking about the decision to move off the train tracks for fear of an oncoming train, that’s obvious. But think about fear for a minute… OK, minutes up. Fear is almost always caused by the feeling that we’re about to lose something we think we need/or have, or not getting something we think we want. If we have everything we need or want, we have nothing to fear right? Everything we need is inside us and can be obtained through spiritual growth.
In order to determine why we resent something, one of the first places to look is our motives. If we’re living a life based on self-propulsion and self-centeredness, anything that does not benefit us directly is bound to cause resentment.
Let’s say someone asks us to help them move this coming Saturday morning. Our immediate thought, (or at least mine) is something like, “great, I was planning on sleeping in and catching up on a good book, now I’ve got to help this guy out, what a drag… hmmm, although, maybe I should since I may need help someday.” Odds are, if our thinking stays along these lines and we do end up helping this guy move, we’re going to resent him for it later.
Now, here’s the key. If I’m doing something with the expectation of getting something in return, and can “check” that feeling and determine that if I don’t get that something in return I’m going to resent it, I shouldn’t do it. I’m simply doing it for the wrong reason.
I know what you’re thinking, if you’re like me and using this as a guide, I would never be doing anything for anyone! Well, we have to start somewhere. The first step is noticing this seed of resentment as it creeps into our conscience. Once we learn how to recognize it, we can begin working on it. It may be as simple as telling ourselves we’re doing something to be helpful, and we do not expect anything in return.
In my experience, the most effective way of working towards a more altruistic nature, is prayer and action. Asking God for a more giving heart and taking action when given the opportunity to help someone out. Conversely, a good way to avoid resentments is not committing to things you do not want to do. Yes, it’s that easy. You have the right to say no!
So the next time someone asks you for help and you feel that resistance creep up in your conscience, that’s a resentment seed sprouting. Don’t water it!