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Time To Give Up Resentment

Resentment isn't a spectacular emotion, but it is long-lasting and it easily becomes a way of life. When this happens, it blocks all possibility of successful and healthy relationships.

When people feel resentment, they draw back into defensiveness to avoid the possibility of still more hurt. Good performance, good relationships and good become impossible. It's also an entirely negative emotion. Nothing productive ever comes from it, while it easily progreses into more violent states like anger, hatred and cruelty.

The Rule of Resentment

People hurt by others often inflict identical hurt of their own in a vicious circle. The abused child becomes a child abuser. The despised failure seeks weaker people to despise. The bullied employee becomes a bullying manager. Resentment seems to cause us to repeat the behaviors we resented. We become still more sensitive to further sources of resentment. We find still harsher ways to hit back.

Resentment is endemic in many organizations, revealing itself in petty cruelties, pointless obstructions and childish acts of sabotage. When you enquire into the causes of the resentment, you mostly find multiple acts of unkindness and cruelty. Managers, browbeaten by their superiors in the all-out demand for ever higher profits, take to crushing their own subordinates with similarly impossible demands. Afraid of losing their jobs, people plot to put others in the firing line.

The "Golden Rule" exhorts us to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. The Rule of Resentment seems to be a direct perversion of it, causing us to treat others as badly we were treated -- or even worse.

The Rule of Reciprocal Behavior

Yet this rule of reciprocal behavior -- of doing to others what was done to us -- also holds good for positives. People treated kindly are more likely to be kind to others. People who are helped and encouraged become helpers in their turn. If bigotry and scorn breed ever greater negativity, tolerance, openness and honesty produce their own harvest of growth and mutual support. In place of the vicious cycle of carping and frustration, it's possible to set up a cycle of ever more positive behaviors.

When people consider ethical working behavior and ask "What's in it for me?" the Rule of Reciprocal Behavior gives a major part of the answer. Unethical behavior is a potent source of resentment and so will nearly always provoke an unethical response.

If you want to be treated ethically by others, you must start by being ethical yourself.

Adrian W. Savage writes for people who want help with the daily dilemmas they face at work. He has contributed more than 25 articles to leading British and American publications and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chicago Tribune.

You can find his blog on ethics, diversity and living life to the full at http://www.adriansavage.com

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