Let Go of Resentment
It will destroy you.
by Preston Poore
Our manager, Kevin, suddenly charged into the room and sat down at the conference table.
“OK, let’s see what you’ve got!” he exclaimed.
“Hi, Kevin. How are you today?” I said with a smile, trying to lighten his mood and begin our meeting on a positive note.
Kevin replied, “I don’t have time today for small talk. Let’s go through your presentation and determine the next steps.”
Over the next 15 minutes, Peter, my teammate, and I presented three different promotional displays to Kevin. We discussed the construction, benefits, and potential cost of each display. Kevin seemed to like the options and asked how we could gain national customer team feedback.
The conversation came up once before, and I recommended that we use an Internet survey. Kevin turned it down the first time. During this discussion, I thought I’d revisit the survey option. After I mentioned it, Kevin shook his head and said, “Nope, already rejected.”
I gently pushed back and asked him to reconsider. I began my response with, “I don’t mean to challenge you, but ….”
Not good. As soon as the words left my mouth, Kevin’s face turned red; he slammed his computer shut and shouted,
“But you are challenging me, and I don’t appreciate it!” Throwing a tantrum, he got up and began to walk out of the room. Wanting to solve the issue, I followed him out the door. I asked Kevin to wait a moment and told him that I was just trying to make a suggestion. I told him I didn’t appreciate being treated that way, especially in front of a team member.
His reply: “Are you going to confront me in the hallway right now?”
“No,” I said, staring at the floor. He told me we’d talk later and walked away.
I’d become accustomed to Kevin’s outbursts. He was the consummate micromanager. His hovering was unsettling and discouraging. He didn’t value thought diversity and wanted everything done his way. After two years of laboring under his management style, I was exhausted. I went home deflated.
The following day, Kevin called me into his office. When I arrived, he asked me to sit down. Then he said, “I am going to tell you some things, and you can’t respond.”
I looked at him inquisitively and thought, I’m in for it; this can’t be good. He was about to give me feedback. He told me that he wanted me to think about it and then we’d talk again. So, I sat in silence, ready to listen.
“Preston, I was relatively easy on you yesterday. Other executives would have torn you to shreds.”
Really? I thought to myself.
“Your brand is tarnished. Three key leaders have provided negative feedback about you recently. They say you’re not a team player and you don’t listen well. You’ve got to change or you’ll be out of a job.”
I held my tongue, honoring his request, and thanked him for the feedback.
I walked away from the conversation madder than a hornet. I was highly offended. I’d worked very hard, accomplished so much, but Kevin always marginalized me. I’d faced criticism before, but this was highly unwarranted. All I tried to do was suggest how to solicit customer team feedback, and Kevin retaliated by implying my job was in jeopardy. A molehill was made into a mountain, and I resented Kevin for it. As a matter of fact, I resented Kevin and his management style for the two years I worked on his team. My constant feelings of bitterness were taking their toll. What was I going to do?
Resentment or Forgiveness
All leaders experience resentment from time to time. What is resentment? It’s an emotion that wells up inside when you feel like you’ve been mistreated or offended. Hard feelings, frustration, or anger can come from any number of sources, including not gaining someone’s respect, not receiving appreciation for a job well done, not being assigned to a special project, being passed over for a promotion, an unspoken apology, or rejection. Resentment is the most toxic of all emotions because it can lead to anger, hate, discord, divorce, aggressive driving, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, bankruptcy, and even violence.
Resentment is a heavy burden we carry, affecting our relationships and health. It begins as an emotional trigger and if harbored will become a mood impacting behavior. As the old adage goes, “Bitterness is the poison one swallows as he or she hopes the other person dies.” If you hold a grudge against someone, the bitterness will fester inside and eventually destroy you.
If resentment is so dangerous, what is the antidote? Forgiveness. If you forgive someone, you stop blaming that person for the offense. You literally let go and move on. The Bible says, “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Eph. 4:31-32).
How do you forgive someone? Employ these four steps to forgiveness.
STEP ONE: Acknowledge your anger, then drop it and move on. It’s OK to be angry but don’t allow it to last. Let go of the anger when offended or wronged by someone. Don’t harbor it. Anger can lead to hate and violence. Resentment will break you if not broken by you. Put down the poison and move on.
STEP TWO: Stand in their shoes. Realize that everyone is imperfect. The Christian leader remembers God forgave you and you should extend mercy to those who hurt you.
STEP THREE: Respond with good, not revenge. Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Ask God to change your heart and enable you to return the offense with a positive reaction. Practice the Golden Rule: Do to others as you’d have them do to you. Remember, love is patient, kind, and doesn’t seek its own way.
STEP FOUR: Pray for those who offend you. Ask God to forgive you and enable you to forgive the person who has offended you.
Admittedly, I’ve struggled with resentment for years. I often dwell on circumstances and people when I feel disenfranchised, demoralized, or undignified. In the previous story, I let my manager get the best of me at times. As a leader in the workplace, I recognized the impact my bitterness was having on me and those around me. But I found the best antidote to resentment is forgiveness. I let go of my grudge and my well-being improved tremendously; I no longer felt the weight of bitterness. I found that my mental outlook improved, relationships healed, and I felt much better.
How about you? Do you resent someone? If so, how is it impacting you? Are you willing to forgive the individual? If you do, your well-being will improve, your relationships will heal, and you’ll be a better person.
Preston Poore has more than two decades of upper-level management experience, most of which has been at The Coca-Cola Company. He is a certified John Maxwell Team coach, speaker, and trainer. Through the Discipled Leader book, blog, and podcast, he seeks to increase the discipleship and leadership skills of Christians across the country.