Anger is considered reasonable and fair when others have crossed our boundaries, or we have been harmed. The emotion of anger is warranted or well-founded based on a legitimate grievance. Problems occur when we do not pay attention to our feelings, we stuff or deny them, and harms go unaddressed.
For example, if we are treated unfairly, discriminated against, or harmed in some way, we may develop justified resentment towards the person or entity responsible for the harm if we do not address our anger effectively in real time. This resentment arises from a sense of moral or ethical rightness, as we believe that our anger or resentment is justified due to the wrongdoing we've experienced.
However, all resentments are about us drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. We may think that all our resentments are justified – but stuff our feelings. The key thing is about how we choose to respond to certain situations. Harboring resentment for an extended period can have negative effects on our mental and emotional well-being, so it's essential to find constructive ways to address and manage these feelings.
When we choose to be “Right” silently in our own minds rather than be happy, we harm ourselves. However, the purpose of anger, and the energy it produces in our body, is to motivate us to act. Some of us may use our energy as a motivation to seek justice or initiate positive change in society, while others may use it as a catalyst for personal growth and healing. But it is difficult to change other people. The best we can do is to set limits and boundaries, to ask for what we need or want, and learn from what happens next. Over time, we find it easier to let past resentments go and extend forgiveness.
During the Fourth Step, we are encouraged to inventory our resentments and harms, and to look at our part. Our sponsor will help us determine, for instance, if we are blaming others long after a harm was resolved, or whether we are blaming ourselves for something we had no power to change. More often, however, our sponsor will help us see the justified anger and resentment of others more compassionately – so we can better understand the harm we have done to them. Inventorying resentments this way is the foundation for Step Five, and may lead to addressing and resolving conflicts and issues with those who we have judged wronged us.
The purpose of the Twelve Steps is to promote self-awareness, healing, and personal growth by addressing the underlying issues that may have contributed to addiction or unwanted behavior. By recognizing and dealing with anger and resentments, we can work towards resolving past grievances and finding healthier ways to cope with them, ultimately supporting our recovery and well-being.