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Remember the seven cardinal sins? You’re given the serious task of adding a new one to the list — another trait or behavior you find particularly unacceptable, for whatever reason. What’s sin #8 for you? Why?

Resentment could be added to that list. I’ve felt it many times in my life, and used to harbor it until I was forced to learn better ways of thinking, speaking, and behaving. Learning to set boundaries and express oneself appropriately can alleviate resentment, and it has to be done, almost as a cleansing process.

I’m a nice person; I avoid confrontation at all costs. I’m a people-pleaser, even when I don’t want to do what’s asked or expected. Some readers will know what I mean, and how self-destructive it is. You can’t please everyone and be your authentic self. I ended up resenting people I was pleasing. I felt guilty if I didn’t do what others wanted or if something went wrong (when or not it was my fault) I felt guilty. It made me miserable, and I completely lost contact with what actually made me happy, contented, and fulfilled. Resentment is a form of hatred, but also a weakness, a self-deprecation. Because I couldn’t set boundaries, and express how I felt about things, what I wanted, and what wasn’t acceptable to me, I created a deep-seated unhappiness and resentment toward others whom I felt were trying to define me.

I hit a point where I had to admit to myself that I had no idea of what made me happy and that I rarely, if ever, felt joy. In my unhappiness, I sought professional help, and over the years have been able to change. And what’s remarkable, I discovered that when I changed and responded to those around me differently, the way they treated me changed for the better.

Now when I feel resentment, I do a self-examination. What’s bugging me? How can I change my behavior to change what’s bothering me? Certainly someone else can hurt my feelings, treat me badly, make me feel guilty, make me mad — but it’s my response that matters, and how much blame or guilt I’m willing to accept. I’m actually wrong sometimes or do things that hurt or anger other people, and when I do, I have to apologize and resolve to not do that same thing again. But I don’t have to hold on to the feelings of guilt and come to the conclusion I’m a bad person.

Religiously, I think resentment, like the other deadly sins, is the work of the devil, an evil that puts a barrier between ourselves and our god/God, thus it’s soul-destroying. It also put up barriers between people and those they care about the most because they aren’t willing, or able, to be open and honest.