In the inventory process of our 12-Step recovery program, one of the things we do is to identify our personal resentments, also called grudges. Resentments can be thought of as re-lived anger, even though the external instigating cause is no longer present. Resentments create unpleasant feelings in us when the thoughts about the situation are brought into our consciousness. Many a relapse has happened because resentments surfaced with their pain and we reverted to fixing the unpleasant feelings with mind altering chemicals. For the recovering alcoholic, it means to drink. Other than the short term euphoric feeling, this fixes nothing. Usually it brings further difficulties, and our resentments simply lie in wait for another day.
This anger, which lies dormant in our individual belief system, will always have some control over us, until the beliefs themselves change. Putting aside the actual consequences from drinking, our personal beliefs and the error they contain is the primary reason for our difficulties in life. Our beliefs influence and filter our thoughts so that our perception of realty conforms to them. In other words, our reality becomes distorted. The more error in our beliefs the further from reality we are. It is by seeking truth and desiring reality for our beliefs that we condition ourselves to grow spiritually.
Our belief system consists of individual beliefs in our memory that were formed in the learning process as we experience life. Within our active mind, these beliefs provide substance for our thinking process, by which we evaluate everything in our individual reality. Our beliefs are formed and modified as we interpret the world around us according to our observations and personal experiences. Now it is good that we have this learning ability. If we touch a red hot stove and get burnt, it might be useful to remember that so it won’t happen again. Our learning ability, as a process, establishes the belief in our memory that it is dangerous to touch a red hot stove. The intensity of the memory imprint is in accordance to the level of the physical pain we experienced with the event. This is a good clue that pain itself has a good purpose.
In a similar manner, any experience that we have with another person, place, or thing – where emotional pain happens – will also be remembered. If we experienced anger at the time it also imprints itself into our memory and resentment has just been created. It will surface itself on occasion, as the thoughts occur, as a feeling of strong displeasure at what we regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury. How deep the resentment goes is highly dependent upon the perception of the experience we had at the time it happened and the intensity of the emotions that was generated. Perception is our ability to see, here, or become aware of something through the senses. It is our individual comprehension of our experiences. It is how we process an experience internally and is always influenced by the other beliefs we have. If these beliefs are full of error our perceptions can become altered away from reality and both the wrongly perceived memory and bad feelings get stored.
Subtle differences in an individual’s beliefs can make such a big difference as to how a person reacts to a given situation. Consider for example, how a person may view another driver on the freeway that cuts quickly in front of them. While one person may view this with serious anger, perhaps even road rage, another person may not react at all and simply go on without discomfort or remembrance. The event was the same so what makes the difference is perception. Once again our beliefs rise up to claim the responsibility. Our beliefs about the other driver as well as beliefs about our own self importance are major factors in how we will perceive the event. On one extreme we may believe that the other driver is self-centered and cut in on purpose and that makes us angry and on the other extreme we may perceive it with the belief that the driver obviously has a life or death emergency and we simply go on without anger and without remembrance. The truth usually lies somewhere in between. Which extreme do you believe will be registered in our memory as resentment? You are right if you guessed the one that created the most negative feelings. That’s the way it works.
All of our resentments have been formed in a similar manner. Anger is certainly a negative feeling so any event or experience we have that produces feelings of anger are going to imprint upon our memory and continue to give us future grief. It therefore becomes important to be in a process or structure for living that moves us towards truth in our belief system. What could be better than the 12-Step process? Within this truth building process we are given a way to put truth into our beliefs about our resentments as well as being provided with a method of creating the type of personal behavior that reflects the life-giving values found in the application of spiritual principles. Principles like forgiveness, humility, unselfishness, and unconditional love can be practiced and go a long way in relieving us from the burdens of resentments. These principles for living relieve us of the burdens found intrinsically in bad beliefs. So this in itself is another example of how truth sets us free when we apply it.
This is not a new idea. It has been around for a very long time.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”