Resentment – A Real Danger to the State of Happiness

By Julian Burke in Forgiveness on July 8th, 2009 / 6 Comments

Resentment is a common emotion, though commonly misunderstood. We may not always be able to control our other emotions, but we at least understand anger, love, despair and the rest. Resentment is an emotion that we often feel without fully recognizing it for what it is, or even being able to properly put the name to it.

What is Resentment?
Before we can deal with resentment, we need to understand what it is and how it affects us. Resentment is a feeling of displeasure or indignation that stems from an incident, real or perceived, that is hurtful. When you resent someone it will color all your future interactions, no matter how trivial, with that person.

Resentment can be open or concealed, immediate or delayed.

Sometimes resentment sits right on the surface. You may resent a coworker who gets ahead by taking undo credit for your work. You may resent a friend’s patronizing attitude toward your hobby or maybe your ex’s new beau. There is no end to the number of issues, large and small, that have fired a sense of resentment in people. Resentment can sneak up on the best prepared of all of us. It is how we handle it that matters – how and how soon. The longer we let resentment linger, the more powerful it becomes.

The Cure for Resentment
The cure for resentment, as with many other negative emotions, is forgiveness. The only way to get past resenting someone for something is to forgive that one for that thing. As devastating as resentment is, if it is open and on the surface then resentment is usually a relatively easy cure once the resent-er acknowledges his need to forgive and deal honestly with the resent-ee.

Hidden, or unrecognized resentment is a thornier issue. Resentment can be a subtle but devastating obstacle on the road to happiness and self-fulfillment. Unlike outright anger or contempt, resentment can linger in our thoughts and on our hearts without us realizing that it is there.

Because it is harder to spot, some people will harbor deep resentment toward others without any conscious knowledge that there is a problem. But when situations become tense, those old resentments find their way to the surface, impeding resolution and fueling the fires of conflict.

If left unchecked, resentment can linger after the situation is seemingly resolved. Often resentment will still fester long after apologies are exchanged and all is superficially forgiven. This concealed resentment poses a real danger to our happiness. The first step to releasing the negative emotion and moving toward happiness is recognizing that there is a problem. There are three common signs of concealed resentment: distrust, questioning motives, and bitterness.

Someone holding on to resentment will often demonstrate an unfounded distrust and suspicion of the other person, sometimes without consciously realizing it. It may be in matters completely unrelated to the initial incident.

Resolving a Conflict between Two Teenagers
Say two teenagers, Janie and Susie, have a conflict over who misplaced Susie’s favorite hairbrush. They may make up. They may apologize. They may appear to move on completely.

But if Susie holds on to her resentment, believing deep down that Janie really did take her hairbrush, that resentment may boil over into other matters altogether. She may hold Janie accountable for more than her fair share of their homework project; she may think Janie is making advances on Susie’s boyfriend.

If there is a lingering resentment, it could show up in any interaction between the two, even if it is completely unrelated to the original issue. In fact, many times it is more likely to come up elsewhere because Susie feels secretly ashamed for still resenting Janie after they made up.

Fixed Attention
Another common sign of unsettled resentment is an unusual level of attention to the other person’s motives in mundane actions. This is really a manifestation of projecting one’s own feelings of displeasure onto the other person. Going back to the previous example of Susie and Janie, Susie may think that Janie is suddenly acting “fake”. Susie finds herself questioning if Janie really meant it when she said she liked her earrings, or the real reason that Janie offered to drive them to the mall.

The motive behind the other person’s actions becomes more and more suspect as time goes on. Soon, the offender is simply assumed to be duplicitous in everything. Resentment like this can ruin a relationship quickly if it is not dealt with properly.

The Sign of Bitterness
The third sign is simply a bitterness that shows itself whenever the other person is around, though it may not necessarily be overtly directed at that person. Many times resentment couples with the previously mentioned sense of shame when a person knows that they should not feel that way.

The result can be an unfocused, unproductive sense of bitterness every time the other person is around. Because the bitterness has become detached from the real issue that sparked the resentment, it has no real focus and we tend to lash out at anyone in the vicinity.

This presents a great danger to our happiness because it affects not only our already troubled relationship, but our other relationships as well. This can begin a downward spiral, or domino effect, that works its way through the resentful person’s entire life.

Resentment does not always focus on a person. We can resent a pet, a company, a religion, even our own bodies. In order to get past the feeling of resentment we need to look at the root cause of our resentment.

Do I really resent the dog, or do I resent my wife for buying the dog without consulting me? Is it the church, or the gossipy neighbor who goes there? Not always, but usually, there is a person on the other end of our resentment, a person who needs our forgiveness just as much as we need to forgive them.

The remedy for resentment: The Choice of Forgiveness

Share/Bookmark this article

Link to this article
Found this article useful? Please consider linking to it. Simply copy and paste the code below into your web site (Ctrl+C to copy).
It will look like this: Resentment – A Real Danger to the State of Happiness

6 Responses to “Resentment – A Real Danger to the State of Happiness”

  1. Jonathan Lockwood Says:

    This post keeps bringing to mind the comments of a certain New York congressman about a recently deceased celebrity. Could he have made his point about media focus–without angry words directed toward a dead man? Is that genuine concern…or resentment?

  2. Summer Foovay Says:

    I used to have a real problem with resentment. The quote that made it suddenly make sense to let go of it is this:

    Resentment is like taking poison, and waiting for the other person to die.

  3. Aliyah Says:

    I’m 23 years old, and Ive been with my current boyfriend for the past 4 years off and on. I have a 5 year old from a previous relationship right after high school. I am starting to feel resentment because I’ve tried everything to feel loved by him but it seems nothing can get to his heart. I’ve tried giving gifts, being more affectionate, doing more chores around the house, being a better friend to him. But I just dont feel it. Sometimes I tell him I love him before going to work and he pauses and say it, or wont say it at all. Now Im pregnant again and I really wanted to be married the next time I had a child. He isnt ready to be a husband. But I’m not prepared to be a single mother of 2. I’ve had previous terminations and a miscarriage so I didnt want to terminate this pregnancy and I dont want to have a child just to give them away. I’m scared, I’m angry, I’m confused, and most of all I resent him. He wants children before marriage and here I am back to giving him what he wants when I don’t recieve anything I want from the relationship. How long am I suppose to wait unhappily to be happy? We’ve been living together 3 years and I’m just fed up. Just looking at him makes me hate him. I feel like he wants me to be another statistic. An african american woman with 2 children, 2 different fathers, not married, and struggling to do it on my own. I feel that he wants to ruin me. He wants this child because he doesnt want me but doesnt want anyone to have me. There was a point when I loved this man to pieces, now the sight of him makes me want to set him on fire. I never really tell anyone how i feel especially on a random website in a blog. But I’m desperate. I know he loves me as his bestfriend, but Im not sure if eventually sees me as anything more.

  4. Karen Says:


    I can really relate to this passage in your post:

    “I’ve tried everything to feel loved by him but it seems nothing can get to his heart. ”

    I just dated a guy, though long–distance, for two years and I felt from the beginning that he wasn’t that interested in me. He proclaimed otherwise and was quite attentive toward me (outwardly); we even seriously discussed marriage. But he was very ambivalent; routinely withdrawing — though this was usually spurred by problems between us — and also was a pro at lengthy silent treatments. I broke it off after two years; just wasn’t willing to waste more time on a guy who couldn’t seem to decide whether or not he liked me. I know perfectly well that he’ll probably meet someone next week and marry them the week after — after all of his mooing and crying that he wasn’t sure about things, etc. Give me a break. If you’ve been with this guy for three years, I doubt that you’re going to get anything else from him other than what he’s delivered to date. When I thought about it, what I got from the guy I dated at the end was exactly what I got on our first date; he looked right past me. The question is why I was dumb enough to get involved.

    In any case, good luck. And if you’re young, healthy and have two beautiful kids, that what counts; who cares what anyone thinks.

  5. Anne Says:

    Yeah, I agree. If you are getting only a fraction of the guy, that’s all you are ever going to get. So, seriously think about whether you want to continue in a relationship like that.

    As for resentment generally, I’m in a relationship with someone who has a ton of resentment towards me, and I would love to know how to help that person get rid of their resentment. We have talked a lot about it, and it’s like he just doesn’t want to understand my perspective which – if he did – then he wouldn’t have so much resentment.

    People with resentment really need to LISTEN and be a little empathic, and then they can start to let go of their resentments because they will realise their resentments are all about them.

  6. Katystevie Says:

    Aliyah, You chose that life for yourself. You chose to have kids in an unstable relationship that you weren’t sure was going anywhere and you’ve done it before! Not only that, you’re got yourself pregnant and had terminations? 2 kids, multiple terminations at just 23. You are irresponsible and stupid. Why don’t you grow up and start using contraception. Think about what you are teaching your children. Wait until you meet someone that loves you. When you meet the right one, you’ll know. You’ll love him, he’ll love you and you’ll feel it. Until then don’t have kids with just anyone. It won’t make men love you. It will make them resent you for trying to trap them and your kids will end up with resentment issues also

Add Your Comments: