Resentment Will Destroy You

Nurses and other healthcare workers who regularly work with difficult people are prone to resentment, which is a deeply indignant feeling of strong animosity we experience when we perceive that a person or group has wronged us in one way or another. Resentment peels away at the soul by reducing positivity and increasing negativity. So how do we deal with these powerful feelings of resentment? Nurses Stress 101 Article


Resentment Will Destroy You

Resentment is the strong, indignant feeling of pointed animosity we experience when we believe a person or group has wronged us in some way. Although resentment is a common emotional state, it is definitely not one of the more fleeting ones. In fact, resentment can seep into our thought processes and persist like a non-healing wound day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, if we don't come to grips with this potent emotion.

As nurses, we all undergo resentment at different points in our careers. After all, it is easy to become swept away in the powerful current of feelings when a frequent flyer patient insists you are doing a horrible job after you arrive a couple of minutes late with his Q2 hour shot of Dilaudid. It is easy to ride the roller coaster of negative emotions when the rude surgeon treats you as if his postoperative patient is the only one you're caring for. It is easy to hop aboard the train of bitterness after your unit manager brings up a silly complaint regarding family members who reported you for not finding recliners and sodas quickly enough.

However, many nurses fail to recognize that fostering resentments over past wrongdoings only serves to hurt us more than the people who are the targets of our angst. By bottling up resentful emotions, we are essentially harming an important aspect of our psyche. Resentment zaps away at the core of our spirits by destroying positivity and keeping us weighted down with negativity. The people who wound us are unlikely to lose much sleep over the manner in which they have treated us. Meanwhile, some nurses and healthcare workers live in a perpetual stew of antagonism that, if left unchecked, results in physical health issues and increased stress levels. The following groups of people commonly trigger feelings of resentment in us:


Nurses who work a full-time schedule naturally spend about a third of their lives at the workplace. Our places of employment can be filled with coworkers who may have an interesting array of personalities. You are fortunate if you get along with your colleagues, but many of us contend with gossip, competition, bad attitudes and other poor interpersonal behaviors that can trigger resentment deeply within us. If you are having a justifiable problem with a coworker, holding a grudge is the worst action you can take. Tackle the concern professionally with the coworker, or if you feel that uncomfortable with the person, solicit the assistance of management or human resources to arrive at a resolution.


Patients can be a constant source of resentment, especially if they are demanding, dishonest or abusive. Something about the strain of illness causes some patients to openly voice their nasty opinions against nursing staff who are doing their best within the constraints of today's harried healthcare system. Whether it's the ETOH-dependent guy who threw a urinal full of pee in your direction in the emergency department, the home health client who accused you of incompetence when you changed her dressing, or the little old lady who starts cursing at you after receiving a cold meal tray, bad patient behavior can produce an internal river of rage that will drown us if we dwell on these incidents.

Family Members

Family members of patients can sometimes be worse than the patients themselves. Their unrealistic expectations, unreasonable complaints, infrequent exaggerations, impractical demands, and occasional lies can conjure up hard feelings of resentment that last many years after the wrongdoings were carried out. Poor behavior from family members can generate negative emotions that attach to our souls like flesh-eating bacteria if we don't get a handle on what we are feeling.


Physicians can serve as yet another source of resentment, particularly if they have a difficult temperament, engage in verbal abusive, or yell at nursing staff. There's something about having 24-hour a day, around-the-clock responsibility for many patients that causes some doctors to snap under pressure. Most physicians are wonderful professionals and collaborators, but the few bad apples who take their frustrations out on others can evoke deeply rooted resentment in nurses that endures over the years.

How does one deal with resentment? Several actions can be taken to address resentful urges. First, we can choose to forgive. In fact, people report that a virtual weight was lifted off their backs after choosing to forgive for perceived injustices. Another way of dealing with resentment is to let go. Letting go of resentful feelings involves a process of gradually eradicating bitterness against the aforementioned groups of people. Of course, seeking professional help is an additional method of dealing with bottled-up anger.

Addressing resentment often entails a healthy degree of introspection. Holding onto resentment leads to profound ingratitude toward others and society as a whole. However, once the resentful feelings disappear from your life, you'll feel better and be able to experience the gratitude that has seemed to elude you. Be thankful for you what you have and everything you've accomplished because you are worth it.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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Specializes in ER.

Another good topic, Commuter.

I think this is why The Lords Prayer is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. When we forgive others, our own hearts are healed. when we fail to forgive, we actually hurt ourselves!

I knew a lady, she was my neighbor for almost 20 years. She seemed to have the inability to forgive. She would verbalize so much bitterness and hatred. It ate away at her soul. She finally moved far away from all the people she hated, her bitterness toward the perceived wrongs that had been done to her by others ruined her life and destroyed her peace of mind.

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
Another good topic, Commuter.

Thanks. I wrote the piece because of my own internal struggles with letting go of deep-seated resentment. I should mention that my resentful feelings are directed toward my family members, not toward coworkers or patients.

I'm an adult in my 30s, so it is hard for me to admit that I still have unresolved issues from events that took place during my growing-up years. One parent had issues with drug addiction and alcohol abuse during my childhood, and both parents were emotionally abusive at times. Although my childhood was not that much different from the ones experienced by other people, I still seethe at times. I am full of ingratitude.

I know that holding onto these negative feelings is unhealthy, especially in a society that constantly tells us to honor our parents. I also know that I need to let go of these bitter feelings in order to feel at peace, so writing about letting go is a start.

Specializes in Dialysis.

Beautifully written

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma.

Great article; a great reminder to "check in" with our own emotions and help "let go" in order to be healthy. :yes:

Specializes in LTC Rehab Med/Surg.

It eventually poisons all things. Not just the initial injustice.

One thing you can't let go of, can rob everything else of joy.

You can't control the behavior of others, but you can control how

you react to it. That's not an original thought. I just tell myself

that half a dozen times a day.

You can't control the behavior of others, but you can control how

you react to it. That's not an original thought.

I agree. I think this is one of life's biggest lessons- for me anyway. I can't control what happens to me, but I can control my emotions/reactions.

Good post, Commuter...and I'll add "the Boss" to your list.

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
I'll add "the Boss" to your list.
I totally agree. The boss (a.k.a. management or administration) can incite some very real resentment for the actions they take and the statements they make.
Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

Ooohhhh...... I've been wallowing in this lately. Good read. Gotta let it go before it eats me up.

Specializes in Gerontology RN-BC and FNP MSN student.

It is always good to be reminded to "let it go"....

I wear an imaginary " I don"t care" or " I am not going to get upset" button....its right above my heart I push it when an offense tries to rear its ugly head, and then turn into a resentment. My spirit is precious to me....therefore I try to keep the weeds of bitterness, anger, fear, resentment off of me!

Our inner game dictates our outer game. :yes:

Thanks for this very nice article. It was actually a very good read. I can relate to this.

Specializes in Psych, MRDD,.

Well written. I think you have a real handle on the triggers for things that create resentments for you.

It is always imperative that we leave our internal turmoils behind us when putting on our nursing faces & focus entirely on what's best for our patients.

I have a strong psychological background (academically & professionally) & discovered long ago that we have control over how we allow people to make us feel. Anger, resentment, bitterness, they are all choices we make with patients, co-workers, bosses ect.

Unfortunately it is much more complex when it involves family & you are showing that you are on your way to finding peace simply by realizing that a large part of your resentment begins with family.

When I was about your age I also had some very real issues with resentments centered around my parents & I found a counselor that I was comfortable with, & spent some time working through them. I found it to be very cathartic & I believe it even gave me a better insight into some of my patients & co-workers. I tried to turn what I discovered about myself & my reluctance to "let it go" into tools to utilize with the situations we have all dealt with & will continue to encounter as long as we are in the "business of caring for others."

I wish you the best in your journey & from what I've read, am confident that you are on your way to not only resolving your resentments, but also in finding a way to learn from them.

Thank you for a very thought provoking topic, & I would like to share one of my favorite internal monologues I use with difficult patients, Physicians, family members, ect. "We are doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are."