Last week’s blog tried to answer the question “Anger - What is it good for?” If you’re thinking “absolutely nothing, say it again…” then you didn’t read it. But you might be remembering the song “War” by Edwin Starr. It’s a classic. Check it out here! While being good for nothing may or may not be true about war, I can say with certainty that it isn’t about anger. Like I discussed, anger gives us information that we can use to understand how to protect ourselves. This applies both to physical and emotional threats. I think that, most often, anger is used for emotional protection. And what happens when we don’t listen to this anger? We leave ourselves vulnerable while feeling attacked which can allow our own anger to turn back on us, creating resentment.
Resentment is like a colony of very angry villagers that lives inside of us and goes on the offensive whenever the source of our resentment presents itself. This builds up because we don’t want to cause harm with our anger or we are afraid of the consequences of expressing it, so we hold it in. Resentment is sometimes directed at a specific person and other times at an area of emotional insecurity. Whatever its root, it continues to grow in us until we find a healthy way to express the anger from which it builds; that is, a way that doesn’t cause new hurt that can turn into new anger and resentment. For an example, I’ll share from my own experience. I have long made a habit of becoming resentful toward those who I perceive to lash out at me in anger. I do this especially to those with whom I am close. Each time I feel myself get hurt, I swallow and breathe and attempt to let it go. What becomes clearer to me all the time is that I am actually slowly allowing myself to build resentment.
When we become resentful, we have allowed our own anger to turn against us. Just like any emotion, in the end it will express itself. The only choice we have in the matter is when and how. Next time you find yourself smooshing down your anger, try this: express it! Don’t use your anger to get what you want. Instead, allow it to speak for itself, to stand up for itself. Know that it has a right to be there, that it is serving a purpose. Let the anger say its piece while respecting the independence and value of others. Depending on your relationship with anger, this may prove difficult at first. Keep practicing and know that by honoring yours and others experience, you can start to create a new pattern of honesty, understanding, and trust that will allow you to let go of your resentment.