Anger And Resentment – What’s The Difference? And What To Do About Them

Have you ever heard someone at a meeting caution something like “don’t get angry, you’ll slip!”? But if you read the Big Book closely you’ll realize it’s not anger that’s the real problem, it’s resentment. So how do you tell the difference? defines anger as a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a (perceived) wrong.

I added the word,  perceived, because in my experience my anger is often aroused by something I think is a wrong done to me, but my perception is likely to be way off.

For example, I tend to get angry in traffic. But the truth is most of the time no one has wronged me, not really. In fact most of them are doing a pretty good job. I’m sure of that because we haven’t crashed. And sure, there are the occasional jerks on the road that are a problem, but mostly it’s my own fear and impatience that triggers my anger.

Another, more current example, is why the heck I can’t get the inserted space in the text removed here! Anyone else see it or know why it’s there? sigh

Anger, that initial hit of negative emotion is pretty normal. It comes on suddenly and, ideally goes away quickly.

Resentment, on the other hand, comes from the French and is based on the idea of re-sending. Or as I’ve heard many say, resentment is a re-living of an anger.

A quote from Carrie Fisher about resentment that rings true to me is “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

I know the resentments I’ve allowed myself to carry have ground at me over time. When I hang on to an anger, my story about the situation grows and grows as I try to fool myself into justifying my actions or my anger.

Small wonder the Big Book tells us resentment is the “number one offender.” (p. 64)

The answer, of course, is acceptance and usually finding and accepting our part in whatever happened to make me resentful in the first place. (See 4th and 10th Steps.)

That sort of recognition of my part doesn’t always come easily. Sure, when dealing with something like traffic I can pretty quickly identify my fear, but I’ve had some resentments take over a year to unsnarl. About eight months ago I made amends to two people who I’d been trying not to resent for about 16 months. It took that long for me to see that my part in the incident had been not speaking up at least one more time.

Fortunately I didn’t get drunk or have another slip, perhaps because I was pretty actively looking for my part.

It also turns out, not surprisingly, that not speaking out is a pattern of mine, particularly when I suspect many will disagree with me.

It’s so tempting, at least for me, to ignore my part and blame the other person. That sets me up every time to continue the resentment and the risk.

Anger isn’t fun, but it’s resentment that’s the killer. At least that’s my experience.

How do you tell the difference between anger and resentment? How do you handle them?

Love and blessings,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered














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Susan November 16, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I’m confused. Are you saying you should have spoken up but you made an amends instead? For what? Not speaking up?
Thanks for any clarification you can offer

annew November 16, 2014 at 10:59 pm

In this situation my hunch is that if I had spoken up at the time there would have been no need for amends… no way to be sure, but as I’ve learned to speak up right away it seems like I have way less resentment and have fewer amends to make.

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