Anger Or Resentment? Yes, There’s A Huge Difference

anger and resentmentEvery now and again someone in a 12 Step meeting will say something like “I don’t dare get angry because I’ll slip.”

If the group has some old timers, one of them is sure to point out that there’s no way we humans can avoid anger and we’re not even supposed to. It’s resentments that are “the number one offender.” (BB p. 64)

It helps if we are clear on the difference between the two words. defines anger this way: a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire. 

There’s  an immediacy to anger. You get cut off at an intersection and anger arises;  you miss your bus and suddenly you’re furious; , you spill ice cream down your front and you’re mad at the world and yourself. Any of these examples and many more are likely to give rise to “a strong feeling of displeasure.”

Generally, however, anger doesn’t last very long. Whatever triggered it happens, we get angry and then we let the anger go and move on.

Anger is pretty much automatic. Something happens and we react with anger. We really don’t have much control over that initial emotion, which is why it’s such a setup for failure when someone says “I can’t afford to be angry.”

This kind of thinking denies our humanness and leads to stuffing emotions we need to experience. In fact, stuffing of anger is one of the ways we can build a resentment.

A resentment, however, can be defined as an anger repeated over and over again, relived if you will. That’s what the prefix  ‘re’ signals and it goes back to the Latin roots of our language. It simply means repeated again and again.

If I become angry and don’t let it go that anger will turn into a resentment. It’s the hanging on to an anger that turns it into a resentment.

Resentments grind at us, keeping us off balance as we allow our anger to fester.

Sometimes we’re aware of our resentments, sometimes we’ve suppressed them so that we’re largely unconscious of what’s really driving us.

My own experience with resentments has been that the best way to both get conscience of them and to let them go is through some sort of inventory process. This can be a 4th Step or a 10th Step. What’s important is that we take an honest look at the resentment which is necessary if we’re to let it go.

This is particularly true of those justified resentments. You know the ones I mean; the one’s where it’s easy to say something like “Well of course I resent her, look at what she did…” The chances are the person you’re resenting hasn’t got a clue that you’re angry and you’re just keeping yourself miserable all by yourself.

Resentment really is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. (Attributed to Malachy McCourt.

Once we take an honest look at our resentment and talk it over with a sponsor or spirtual advisor, we’re usually able to accept our part in the situation and begin to let it all go.

And if you’re finding it difficult try the Resentment Prayer – it’s on page 449 in the Third Edition of the Big Book, and page 552 in the 4th. You can also read it Big Book on Resentments.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed that the person I’m resenting have what I want… I’ve been set free every time.

What’s you experience with anger and resentments? Have you worked with the Resentment Prayer? Our comments are open.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered



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Artra M. Thomas April 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Thank you I needed that reminder even after 21 years this month.

annew April 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Artra, I haven’t found that long term recovery means no anger… it does seem I deal with it differently or get a bit less caught up in it, except, of course, when I don’t.

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