“Resentment is the poison you drink hoping to hurt your enemy.” –Nelson Mandela
Holding on to the injustice done to you as a child can cause you even more pain today, as resentment leads to emotional paralyzing. Remember, forgiving is NOT excusing or forgetting. And it’s not done to appease others or to reward the person who inflicted the violence. Forgiving is much more about you then them. It’s about letting go of the Resentment in your own heart – one of the most powerful LIES children of domestic violence learn to carry with them throughout life that eats away at them – and freeing yourself of the power and control your past still has over you and your emotions. It’s simply lifting the heavy burden you’ve carried in your heart for so long and opening yourself up to infinite possibilities for better, more positive and rewarding experiences and emotions.
Evangelical pastor and author Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life (2002), says: “Those who have hurt you in your past cannot continue to hurt you now, unless you hold on to the pain through resentment.”
When you grow up in a home with domestic violence, you can become an adult who resents everyone who, in your view, has had it better than you. This feeling is certainly understandable, and you may feel entitled to it, given the fear, pain, uncertainty, and lack of security you grew up with. You may believe you’re the only one who had to live through it and you may think everyone else was blessed with a happy, carefree childhood while you were forced to suffer day after day. You may feel you deserved better and may replay all the old wrongs over and over in your mind endlessly, frequently feeling bitter, blaming and resenting others around you. You resent their happiness, or their wealth, because you never had that. It makes you feel better tearing them down, or so you believe.
Over time, this resentment begins to reinforce itself, as you’ll always find more evidence around you to feed and validate it, while selectively ignoring all the evidence that disputes it. That is how the brain impacted by childhood domestic violence is programmed. When you grow up believing LIES – such as the Resentment LIE, because of what you endured, the brain selectively seeks out evidence in your environment to reinforce this LIE while dismissing stimuli that point to the TRUTH. This is why the TRUTH often evades children of domestic violence, as many of us spend our lives convinced of the LIES, which hold us back from reaching our full potential.
Resentment becomes a vicious cycle, because you’ll always run into people who, in your perception, have more – more money, more material things, more success, more friends, more opportunities, more happiness. My upcoming book dedicates chapter 3 to the Resentment LIE. The irony is that you believe you could ever feel better by making others feel worse, or have any kind of resolution or ‘payback’ for the past. Instead, every harsh word said, cold shoulder given, and praise withheld turns on you, and you end up resenting yourself more each day. If you allow the resentment to overtake you, it will damage your life even more than the damage already done. It consumes you and causes you to retreat from others, depriving you of genuine and meaningful emotional connections and bonds, which are essential in life.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California psychologist and Author of The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t; What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does (2013), explains further that feeling “personally deflated as a result of other people’s successes, accomplishments, and triumphs and feeling relieved rather that sympathetic in the face of other people’s failures and undoings is a poor prescription for happiness.” Instead, “releasing your resentment and revealing your feelings is the first step to healing.”
By discovering the TRUTH, you can replace Resentment with its opposite – Compassion.The truth is that what you went through as a child uniquely prepared you to empathize with others and form purer, truer, and stronger connections than most, build on genuine understanding and appreciation of others’ experiences and struggles, because you know what real pain, real fear, real unhappiness feel like. Realizing this TRUTH and freeing yourself of Resentment opens up a whole new world of possibilities you never before realized existed – in your personal relationships and your quality of life overall.
By transitioning between the Resentment LIE to the Compassion TRUTH, you’ll discover your life has become much more fulfilling and rewarding. I did.
You will find much more about Resentment and Compassion in my upcoming book, due out later this year, as well as simple everyday steps to help you unlearn the Lies and live the Truths.
Brian F. Martin
Founder & CEO
CDV-Children of Domestic Violence
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