Resentment and Martyrdom

Guy standing blindfolded in front of the ocean with his arms open

“Where there is resentment, there is martyrdom.”

~Natalie Ryan Hebert

My friend, mentor, and fellow healer Natalie dropped this heater on me the other day. Hooweee, that’s got some stank on it!

The way I read that (and she can correct me if I’m wrong) is that, if I’m resentful, I’ve probably made a decision at some point, consciously or unconsciously, to suffer needlessly in lieu of setting a boundary, stating a need, protecting myself, disappointing someone, jeopardizing a connection, or taking personal responsibility in some way.

Oftentimes, resentment is just the “evidence” we need to prove how much better than others we are. How much more selfless, self-sacrificing, or thoughtful we are.

Man… with all the shit I put up with, I MUST be a great person!

Resentment is also a lot easier than confrontation, asking for help, or admitting you were wrong.

It is the pain of not dealing with a problem that we choose over the pain of facing the challenge. It’s less work, more comfort zone (familiar suffering is still relatively comfortable), and usually comes with the added benefit of making us feel superior.

It’s kind of a guilty pleasure, I suppose. Like an egotistical indulgence with a victimhood smokescreen that’s just good enough to pass as something other than denial of personal responsibility.

Alternatively, I wonder if those of us who never attained the sympathy, care, admiration, or emotional attunement of our parents cultivate resentment in order to elicit that type of attention from others? To prove to ourselves that we are worthy of such attention.

Hmmm… that quote really has me thinking!

I feel confident that everyone experiences resentment at one time or another. But when resentment shows up, do you use it as an opportunity for growth or justification for staying the same?

Resentments can be quite informative, like triggers that showcase your untended wounds and point you down the path of healing. However, resentment can also become a festering cesspool of self-pity, contempt, justified anger, and self-righteous indignation.

I guess it all depends on what you do with it.


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Published by Adam

Mentor, coach, speaker and educator for over 12 years. I have survived, recovered from and triumphed over many obstacles and afflictions. It brings me tremendous joy to help others overcome similar circumstances so they can live their best lives.

7 thoughts on “Resentment and Martyrdom

  1. This gives me something to think about for sure. I haven’t set boundaries in my situation …. Like NONE. I stay in constant resentment of him even though I acquiesce to everything he asks of me. Why do I do that ? I already know …. I don’t want him to not love me. I don’t want to tell him no. Hes an addict …. Lost his apartment, no car, no money etc. etc.
    The reciprocity we had is long gone in terms of love, emotional support etc.

    Anyway … I digress lol .
    Thank you !!

    1. Oof, that’s a tough situation. Very common though, if you can believe it. Esther Perel once said something like, when we don’t feel worthy of being loved, we replace it with being needed. Addicts and alcoholics are very needy and emotionally immature people in many regards. Which makes them good “dependents.” May you continue to heal and learn and grow, my friend.

  2. That’s definitely been my experience with resentment. Look at all the things I do for everyone! I must be a saint. Ha!
    Natalie is the best, isn’t she??

  3. Interesting perspective, I have often seen and tried wrapping my head around the concept of when we see ourselves as victims and sit in victim stance what does it provide for us. Internally what does it provide to us, thank you for further insight into this.

    1. I imagine all human behavior is either meeting a need or protecting us somehow (even if circuitously). But that’s definitely a good reflective strategy – looking for the payoff.

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