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What Are Resentments?

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We talk a lot about resentments in the program. While this might be a word that you’re familiar with, the context in terms of sobriety might be a little bit new for you. In this article we’re going to talk a little bit about resentments.

First off, what is a resentment anyways? If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the tapes called “The Big Book Comes Alive” with Joe and Charlie we highly suggest them. In those tapes, Joe and Charlie talk a little bit about the root of the word resentment. The root of that word is the latin word “sentire” which means to feel. This is also similar to the spanish word “sentir” which also means to feel. Spanish is based on latin. And then “re” like in repeat means to do again. So when we have a resentment we are “re-feeling” something that happened to us. It also tends to be negative things. We’re not sure if you can have a positive resentment. But maybe that’s a topic for another blog post. Another way to think of it is by considering the word “sentiment” which means feeling as the root and then applying the “re” part as well.

So, what’s the difference between a feeling and a resentment? Time. If somebody pisses you off and then five minutes later you’re cool, that’s not a resentment. But when we sit and stew for hours, days, weeks, months or even years, that’s a resentment. And anyone who has ever experienced that, which is basically any human that has ever lived, knows that it’s not a good feeling. So why do we do it?

Well even though it’s not a good feeling, there’s something righteous and satisfying about it in a sick way. We get a payoff, don’t we? You may have heard that having a resentment is like holding a hot coal with intent or throwing it at another person, or setting yourself on fire and hoping the other person chokes on the smoke, or taking poison and hoping that the other person dies. Well sometimes the feeling of being right can be so strong that we don’t even realize we’re burning up, choking on smoke, or dying from poison. This is where the program and a sponsor can be a great help. As many sponsors like to say, “how’s that working for you?” And most of us, if we are honest, with regards to resentments have to say in response, “not too well.”

So what do we do? Well, the program has a pretty simple plan for that too. We do an inventory. We state what happened, who was involved, what part of us it threatened, and what was our part. Then we move on. If necessary, we continue praying for the people at whom our resentments are directed.

And then we have to let it go. Why? Because if we don’t we suffer. It’s as simple as that. And sometimes, if we don’t let it go, we can end up drinking. The literature describes a resentment as a luxury no longer available to the sober alcoholic. It’s just too risky and it’s not worth it. So let it go.