Anger and Resentment – What’s the Difference?


In the labyrinth of human emotions, anger and resentment often intertwine, creating a complex web that can be challenging to untangle. Both are powerful feelings that emerge in response to perceived wrongs and can significantly impact relationships, mental health, and overall quality of life. While they may seem similar on the surface, these two emotions differ in significant ways.

Anger typically manifests as an immediate response to an unjust situation or event, a fiery explosion that illuminates the offense and provokes a reaction. On the other hand, resentment brews over time, simmering under the surface, and growing from continual feelings of unfairness or disappointment.

Understanding these differences and how these emotions influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions is critical to achieving emotional intelligence and maintaining healthy relationships. It’s an exploration of two of the most profound and potentially destructive emotions in the human experience, and how we can harness their power for self-growth rather than letting them control us.

Anger and Resentment are Different

Anger is defined as a strong feeling of displeasure and, usually, of antagonism.’ Resentment, on the other hand, is ‘persistent ill will…’

Do you see the difference? Anger is that sudden emotion that overcomes us when something goes wrong, or we think something has gone wrong. You know, someone cuts us off in traffic and we’re immediately angry.  Or someone is rude to us and our reaction is anger.

Anger turns into resentment when we allow the anger to become persistent. If, when we’re cut off in traffic, we allow our anger to grow so we take some sort of destructive action, like chasing the offending driver, we’re into resentment. If, when someone is rude, we let that anger simmer so we’re having fantasies of revenge, we’re dealing with resentment.

Anger is our (mostly) automatic response to a situation; we usually can’t control the fact of our anger, but we can control how we behave when anger strikes. Resentment is a choice – we’ve decided, on some level, or allowed ourselves to stay angry.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender” (p. 64) with good reason.

  • Resentment is always about what someone or something has done to us.
  • Resentment keeps us feeling like a victim.

These are exactly the sorts of feelings that build excuses for slips.

Accept Responsibility

A more reasonable, effective, and spiritual response is to accept at least some responsibility for what’s happened – even if it’s only accepting responsibility for letting anger build to resentment.

As soon as we accept responsibility, we’re acting from our power. As the resentment disappears, we either find the issue wasn’t really important after all, or we can begin to take rational, self-supporting steps to remedy the situation.

Love, peace, and abundance,

Harnessing the Power of Anger

Anger, despite its negative reputation, is not inherently destructive. It is a natural human response designed to alert us to perceived harm or injustice. The key lies in learning how to channel this raw energy productively.

We can use our anger as a tool for self-awareness, prompting us to introspect and identify what is truly upsetting us. By understanding our triggers, we can better address them and communicate our feelings effectively. This not only reduces conflict but also paves the way for personal growth.

Breaking the Cycle of Resentment

It’s important to recognize the cycle of resentment and its impacts on our well-being. Long-lasting resentment can burden us with unnecessary stress, deteriorating both our mental health and interpersonal relationships. Learning to let go of resentment involves understanding that holding onto it serves no purpose other than to keep us stuck in a cycle of negative emotions.

Releasing resentment often involves forgiveness – not necessarily for the one who wronged you, but for your peace of mind. It’s about accepting the past and making a conscious decision to free ourselves from its chains.

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

An integral part of navigating complex emotions like anger and resentment lies in developing emotional intelligence. This involves recognizing and understanding our own emotions, and how they influence our thoughts and behaviors.

By cultivating emotional intelligence, we can gain better control over our reactions and improve our relationships. It allows us to empathize with others, manage stress effectively, and communicate our feelings more constructively.

Nurturing Compassion and Understanding

As we navigate our way through anger and resentment, fostering compassion and understanding can be our compass. When we begin to see things from others’ perspectives, we may realize that their actions are often less about us and more about their struggles.

By developing compassion for others, and also for ourselves, we can ease the intensity of anger and resentment. This empathetic approach can contribute to healthier relationships and a more balanced emotional state.

Embracing Mindful Practices

Incorporating mindfulness into our daily routines can greatly aid in managing anger and resentment. Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present at the moment, allows us to objectively observe our emotions without judgment. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can facilitate a more mindful existence. By honing our ability to stay present, we can more easily recognize the onset of anger or resentment, providing an opportunity to process these emotions constructively before they escalate.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, anger, and resentment can feel overwhelming and beyond our control. In such cases, seeking professional help can be invaluable. Therapists and counselors are equipped with the necessary tools and strategies to guide us through these complicated emotions. This proactive step towards mental wellness can provide new perspectives and help us develop healthier emotional habits, enriching our overall quality of life.

Closing Thoughts

Navigating through the storm of our emotions can often feel like a daunting task. Yet, it’s an integral part of our journey toward personal growth and emotional well-being. Understanding the distinction between anger and resentment, and learning how to effectively manage these emotions, can truly be a game changer.

Each one of us has the power to transform our emotional landscape. It requires self-awareness, acceptance of responsibility, cultivation of emotional intelligence, and nurturing compassion. Embracing mindfulness and seeking professional guidance when necessary can further support us in this journey.