08/14/2012 06:36 am ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

The Down Side of Resentment

"You can't have a harmonious relationship and hold onto your resentment too. You can't hold onto your anger and bitterness and still have a healthy heart and a settled stomach." -- Eric Butterworth

Dealing effectively with the negative energy of anger and resentment seems to be a skill most people are still working at getting a handle on. Medical studies have proven that long-held anger and resentment are damaging to our physical and emotional well-being. In other words, the energy of resentment eats away at our minds, our bodies and the body of our relationships. Given this knowledge, why would anyone want to hold on to resentment, anger and bitterness?

Someone once said holding resentment toward another person is like drinking arsenic and hoping the person you are resenting dies. Buddha put it another way: "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else -- you are the one who gets burned." This helps put it into perspective, doesn't it? "Re-sent-ment" is simply re-sent "anger." It is the mental and emotional act of resending toxic and negative energy through our own minds and bodies, repeatedly.

This is not to diminish the fact that many of us may have legitimate reasons to be angry toward another person. Sometimes people do thoughtless and even cruel things to each other. However, stop and think about it: Does holding onto resentment serve YOU in a positive, life-affirming way? Most likely, the answer is no. In many cases, the person or people we hold in resentment don't even know or care... Or worse yet, some of them are already in the grave but we are still allowing them to hold us hostage to the past. Isn't it time to set ourselves free?

What I have discovered is that communication is always the healing balm in relationship issues, and forgiveness is what sets us free. It's important to remember that forgiving doesn't mean we are condoning the actions that evoked our anger -- it means we are willing to set ourselves free from the past by not "resending" the toxins of resentment through our minds and bodies in the future. Proactive, clear, authentic, transparent communication and forgiveness will set us free from the energy of resentment, anger and bondage to the past.

As a mindfulness practice, consider making a list of anyone you may be holding in resentment. (This could include yourself.) If you are uncertain, go within and ask your wisdom-self to reveal where there may be bitterness in your heart. Then, make a commitment to communicate with each person in the appropriate way. Call them, write them a letter, email them or go and see them. If they are no longer alive, write a letter and then in a moment of silence and peace, burn the letter, releasing the resentment as you bury the ashes. What can make the process easier is remembering that we forgive others for ourselves, not them. Holding resentment only holds you hostage.

Set yourself free today. Why? Because you love yourself too much to drink arsenic or hold onto hot coals, yes?

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