Resolving Resentment that Fuels Your BLEEP

“I knew I resented my ex-wife and all she did to me and our family. But I had no idea I was punishing my current wife, and my children (and my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, neighbors, church friends for that matter!) with it! I really had no idea!”

I like to define resentment as a deep emotional reaction to feeling mistreated or handled in an unjust manner.

Resentment is a very powerful condition. If not dealt with, it becomes a reoccurring obsession. And obsessions cause spirit blindness, deafness or roadblocks to rational focus.  

Because it normally involves another person or entity…it also affects the resentful person’s ability to trust, love, or deeply care for others.

Draining the fuel tank filled with resentment is difficult. Very difficult.

One of the reasons that it’s so difficult is because not only is the wound deep, but the unfairness, the unjustness of it all keeps … well, it just keeps recycling. It’s the gift that keeps on giving whether you want it or not.

Through the years, I’ve heard people tell me what others have told them to do about resentment. Almost all of them are things from pop psychology that simply do not work. Things like:

  • Just get over it.
  • Forget about it.
  • Just forgive the situation or the person.

Forgiveness is certainly one of the important steps in draining the fuel tank loaded with resentment. But most people’s version of forgiveness is denial. Or acting as if you’re OK about it.

Forgiveness becomes much more palatable when the earlier steps are done correctly. I often tell people, as I did this client: “Make a decision that you will forgive. Then let’s do the steps that lead to forgiveness.”

As someone has so aptly has said, “Forgiveness in/from heaven is instantaneous, but on Earth, it’s a process.” 

His immediate response was: “Let’s do it!”

To get him (and you started) here’s the first question.

“What would you guess is the greatest resentment that you keep recycling?”

Once again, he listed the same thing that his wife had guessed (from my blog two weeks ago). The infidelity, lies, and financial indiscretions in his marriage that led to divorce. I asked him if he was ready and willing to work on draining that toxic tank.

I could see by the expression on his face, and the leaning in that he did with his body language, that he was eager to do so, but he did express his doubts.

“I’ve prayed about this, I’ve raged about it, I’ve done everything I know to do. I simply don’t know how.”

I validated him with an empathetic nod, then commented“That’s why I’m here!“ His hopeful smile definitely made my determination to help him in this process even greater.

Here are the steps that I walked through with him and that I also encourage others to walk through in order to begin unloading the resentment.

1. Write the story from your viewpoint. Then step into the other person’s, group’s, or entity’s shoes. And write the story from theirs. 

It’s good to do this, because for however long we have been rehearsing this injustice that angered us, hurt us, and has now turned into bitterness… it has been all about us. That’s not a criticism. It’s just a way to break that cycle that keeps us held captive to the event, person, situation that we have resentment toward. A truth heals, a lie steals…and yes it’s hard.

(But you’re not reading this because you know it’s easy. And I’m not writing this for the same reason…let’s do this!)

Then write what you wish you’d done differently in that situation.

Rather than write letters, I had him do it verbally in my office.

I asked him to give me a 1 to 2 paragraph summary of the story from his viewpoint.  He began slowly and thoughtfully.

“I wasn’t a perfect husband, but I loved her. I made sure that she had most everything she wanted.”

He paused, looked out the window, and went on.

“Then she got a job she loved and right away began working late. Then going for drinks with her co-workers. Then lying about where she was and who she was with. All of this over a course of 6 months.”

He held back his intenseness and continued.

“All of a sudden, her paycheck no longer went into our account. She opened her own account and not only spent all her money but began running credit cards up too. Then I caught them together.”

His face fell into his hands as he choked out these words.

“It almost killed me!”

I empathized and allowed him time with the tears that had been held back far too long. Then we did some healing moments, as I validated his pain and experience.

I then asked him to tell the story from her viewpoint, honestly trying to see what she might say in an honest moment. The resentment became obvious on his face, in the tone of his voice, and in the words he chose.

But the moment he began, all of that changed.

“She would say that we had a really good beginning, until I drank too much. Only on the weekends, though. And that I gained weight, and that I enjoyed fishing and sports and spent more time doing that than with her. I guess she was right about all of that.”

Re-grouping his thoughts he went on.

“That she got lonely and got a job.  She realized she didn’t have to live on a budget anymore, and begin spending large amounts of money on her hair, make up, Botox, etc. She started to really like herself again, and it showed and she loved what she saw.”

He chuckled a bit then back to serious before moving on.

“She felt alive when she went out for drinks. She didn’t mean to fall for the boss.  But he was a well-known doctor in his arena, and everyone loved him…and that she fell for him too.”

“She would say she didn’t mean to hurt me. Or the kids. And I’m pretty sure she would say that after he moved on from her, she regretted it. And, I now can honestly say I left her vulnerable by abandoning her uncovered emotionally as the leader of our family.”

“Great job!” I affirmed. “It doesn’t matter if you are correct or not, but it’s important that you take a moment to step out of your shoes and into hers.”

We moved on to what he wished he had done differently. His answer was honest and succinct.

“I wish I hadn’t acted like such a fool when I caught them!”

He left exhausted after step one. But he also commented that he felt a real sense of relief he hadn’t felt in years.

If you have a trusted friend, a mentor, a counselor, Coach and/or a sponsor…do this exercise with them.

If not, just do it in writing.

It is still a powerful exercise!

I believe you will have a strong sense of relief, just like my client did.

2. Write a letter to or have an ‘empty chair’.

        A conversation with the other person.

        And say to yourself from their viewpoint,

        what you wish they’d said or done.

I set up an additional chair in the room, and rather than doing the letter, I asked him to sit in the chair, and imagine that he was her…speaking to him.

And to say out loud to the empty chair where he had been sitting (as if he was her speaking to him) what he wished she had said to him at that time.

After a moment, and a very deep breath, still staring at the floor…He began.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I lost myself and lost my way. I’m sorry I hurt you.”

I honored the tears with a moment of silence. Then I asked him to come back to his chair, and to say what he’d like to have said had she done that.

He softened and took another deep breath. The exhale felt like he was releasing and beginning to empty the tank of resentment.

“Thank you. I wish you well,” he said as his voice cracked with emotion.

There was not a dry eye in the room, including me.

It’s a powerful thing to give yourself what you needed, but never got even when it’s not within in your power to do so. Oh the mystery of grace…right? 

You may think, “Isn’t that just a silly exercise?”

Well, not really. You see, the memory is held in the reptilian part of your brain. That part has no sense of time or direction. When you speak words that you wish they had said, your reptilian brain soaks it in as truth.

That’s why it is important if you’re doing it via letter, that you read what you wish they had said aloud.

It’s powerfully healing.

Don’t miss this healing opportunity, and a huge step in draining the tank of resentment just because you might find it “different” or be tempted to write it off as “nonsense.” You CAN teach your brain to think how you really want to think.

You will feel resentment begin to drain as you do this exercise. Not only will there be more relief, but as my client said.

“I’m almost afraid to say this out loud, but this is bordering on feeling like a peace that I haven’t experienced in years.”

I want that same thing for you, my friend!

3. Make a decision to let them ‘off the hook’.

Not for their sake, but for yours.

Do a symbolic ‘off the hook’ exercise.

For the last step, I did a symbolic exercise with him to visualize draining the rest of the resentment from the tank. 

I put a mat beneath my 4-foot whiteboard and handed him an assortment of colored markers. I asked him to pour the resentment out of his heart down through his arms, and into his hands, and to transfer all of the resentment to the board. With words, with scribbles, with abstract drawing. Whatever would only make sense to him… And do it fast and furiously.

He did.

The dark scribbles and clouds and “x”s and words were almost haunting. Once he felt it was all out, he stepped back, and said, “That’s quite a mess! I guess it’s a lot like me.” I knew it was true.

I gave him a spray bottle with a powerful trigger, filled with solution that would begin to cause the awful things on the board to dissolve and run to the floor.

I invited him to see it as a new beginning, and with every squirt…the resentment would begin to run down the board, and new life could begin, and new love could begin to fill the tank.

He sprayed with a frenzy until colors began to run. His wife’s tears ran at the same velocity!  After much of it had run to the floor, I handed him a towel and asked him if he was ready to wipe all the resentment away. He cleaned the board to perfection until there was no sign of a single mark.

What can you do to symbolically get the resentment out of you and wash it away? And let love take its place. 

What does this do?

It lets the other person or situation off the hook. Because, as long as they are ‘on the hook’…they’re always with you. They have a powerful presence in your life. Even if it’s an unwanted presence.

So much so that there is no room for those attempting to pour love into you.

What exercise can you do to release the resentment in order to let the person off the hook. You are not punishing them when they are on the hook, you are allowing them to continue to hold YOU captive.

When we were done with this exercise, the husband looked at his mess on the mat, and said to her, “I’ve poured that all over you for years. I am so sorry. I punished you because you were present, but she was the one I had resentment toward. I will forgive her. It’s the right thing to do.”

Tears were streaming. I honored the silence.

“I know I don’t deserve it, but could you ever possibly forgive me?”

The flood gates opened, and I’m certain the tears from both washed away any remnants of resentment left behind.

What symbolic exercise can you do to let the person or situation off the hook? Because when you do it, the resentment will wash away!


When our resentment tank is full, it fuels BLEEP. It comes out when you miss a turn, can’t find a tool, make a mistake, drop something…it just flows out.

Creating stress hormone dumps in those you love.

But when the tank is drained of the resentment, it is ready to be filled with love for those important people in your life.

I love what Dale Carnegie says about resentment:

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration, and resentment.”

Don’t allow the injustice done to you by a person, group or situation cause you to wither away with fatigue.

Mayo Clinic found these lifestyle and health benefits to letting go of resentment, and moving toward forgiveness:

  • Healthier relationships.
  • Improved mental health.
  • Less anxiety, stress, and hostility.
  • Fewer symptoms of depression.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • A stronger immune system.
  • Improved heart health.
  • Improved self-esteem.

Drain the resentment tank and claim all 8 of those benefits.

That, my friend, is abundance!  That my friend is life!

Abundant life!