We know from the steps that we must work through our resentments. “Resentment is the number one offender” as we are explicitly told. It is resentment that eats away at us and fueled our drinking. What better excuse for continuing a life drinking than the list of grudges and resentments we may have against other for wrongs both real and imagined. Yet many of us bristle at that part of step four in which we must take pen to paper and write down our own role in these resentments.
I know when I worked through step four I had literally place my arm over the list of resentments in one column so that I could not actually look at the list as I wrote down my role in the resentment. I was so attached to what I believed were the “reasons” for these resentments. But I with the help of a sponsor I managed to get it all out and write it down. I then followed through with addressing those people in which I owed amends. The Big Book concedes that we may feel that the person to whom we hold a resentment may well have done us more wrong than we did to them. But this is not the occasion for counting out the balance of wrongs. For us, this is the occasion to reckon with ourselves with respect to these resentments.
Another way of looking at the resentment problem is that we do nothing to those people toward whom we are angry. By nurturing resentment, we hurt only ourselves. I have heard it said that resentment is using our imagination to create something we do not like. It is a waste of spiritual energy. Resentment as a way of feeling may well be a natural consequence of come aspects of life, but as the book explains, this is “the dubious luxury of normal men.” It is a dubious luxury because the truth is no one benefits from resentment. But for the alcoholic, resentment is lethal.
Ultimately, working through these resentments, making a list and taking a complete inventory of our own role in them, is not necessarily about making everything right and square with everyone from our past. It seems to me that working through the resentments is more about relieving ourselves of the burden of carrying so much negative weight on our shoulders. We shed these things so as to lighten our won load. Once we address the resentment and our role in it, we are able to look the world in the eye without fear of conflict, at least outstanding conflict. So much of recovery is about lightening the load, shedding those aspects of our lives which have served only to drag us down and give us reasons to drink long after we no longer wanted to drink. We square up with others so as to mend address the wrongs and to free ourselves of outstanding obligations which should have been cleared up long ago. Taking inventory of the resentment and addressing it is really about our own healing and recovery.