Eliminating Limiting Beliefs in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step groups

- 36 Tips
for working the
12 Steps

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Anger and Resentment - What's the Difference?

Anger is normal; resentment is a killer

Often you'll hear 12 Steppers make a statement like 'don't get angry, you'll slip.' If there's someone around with some time they may point out that resentment, not anger is the real threat to continuous abstaining.

The differences between the two are important.

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 really 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. 

  • A resentment is always about what someone or something has done to us. 

  • A 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 own 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,


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