By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Here’s a question every angry man and woman needs to consider: How long are you going to allow people you don’t even like — people who are no longer in your life, maybe even people who aren’t even alive anymore — to control your life? How long?” ~Andy Stanley
Letting Go of Clothes and Resentments
It’s not always about style; sometimes we just retire clothes because they no longer fit. They’re too tight, too loose, not the right shade, or we realize that we bought something on impulse and weren’t thinking about the practicality of the item.
It’s easy to discard old items of clothing in favor of new apparel. We may even feel proud that we’re doing something for others when we give those items to a shelter. Or we reward ourselves with something new because we earned or deserve it.
But we will hold on to resentments for years.
While we all like comfy clothing, we’ll hold on to resentments for much the same reason – it’s cozy and familiar.
Aren’t I Justified in this Resentment?
We know, that each time we think about the person or situation we resent, we reinforce and justify our feelings of anger, betrayal, and injustice. We can resent people that we perceive have harmed us in some way.
I am not dismissing the fact that people injure others, nor am I excusing the actions that created the resentment.
What I’d like you to consider is that the resentment damages you when you continue to harbor those feelings.
For instance, I had resentments towards my mother. I didn’t think she was caring, supportive, or kind towards me, growing up. From those opinions, I then developed the resentments. To bolster my opinion, I looked for any slight and added that to the evidence to make my belief valid.
As if that weren’t enough validation, I would then relate the injustice to someone else who invariably agreed with me.
Talking to the Source or Not
In my early recovery, when I talked with my mentor about my resentments, he asked me if I’d ever taken the time to discuss them with my mother. His point was that talking about them with others didn’t seem to resolve the issues, so why not take it to the source.
I don’t necessarily believe that everyone can take their resentments to the source, and you should think about this and get advice from trustworthy people, like a sponsor or accountability partner, before you directly approach the person, but in my case, that’s what I did.
Growing up, I did not know that my mother suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She also grew up in a home with an alcoholic, and when he drank too much, he got angry and invariably, someone got hurt. Therefore, my mother was afraid of angry feelings.
Her response to angry feelings was to “go silent.” In her mind, not talking to my sister and me was better than voicing her displeasure, especially if her anger was not about us.
Resentments Create Conflict
The problem with this faulty logic was that I had no clue why my mother wouldn’t talk to me, console me, or show love during silent times. I just knew that she was in her workroom giving time, energy, and effort to her hobbies, and I was jealous of the attention she gave to her crafts. Those hobbies occupied time when I needed my mom, and I resented her for not being more involved with me. Because of my feelings and attitudes, I created the illusion that she loved her crafts more than she loved me.
When I risked asking her about these times, her response shocked me. She said that she released her anger when she worked on her hobbies; anger that she was afraid would come out in her tone of voice, what she said, or how she acted towards my sister or me, and that it wouldn’t be proper to take it out on us; therefore, she went silent.
We talked about how I perceived the silence, and my mother cried.
Healing from the Resentments
At that moment, I realized there was nothing to forgive in my mother’s actions; she went silent out of a misguided sense of love. I also realized that because I was unwilling to view the incidents of silence over the years from any other perspective but my own self-centered views, I had harbored a grudge and judgmental attitude that hurt me just as much as the silence.
This conversation, along with others, allowed us to heal the relationship and move beyond the years of built-up animosity. I was able to let my mother know that she could tell me when she was angry with me, as well. Giving her permission to voice her anger about my past actions or even my behaviors in early recovery meant that she didn’t have to hide her own feelings, could talk about them with me, and we could understand and better accept each other.
Retiring the Resentments
The problem with holding on to resentments is that they no longer serve their purpose. It’s done, and while there may be lingering ramifications as a result of their actions towards you, there is help available to you.
After all, each of us deserve a new pair of shoes – maybe even ones we can walk in; they are still making flannel shirts and those jammies with the dolls on them?
Well, some things should just be retired because we’re becoming adults in our recovery, and retiring resentments is an indication of our new viewpoint.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.