A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 20, 2013
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”

"Resentment is like drinking/taking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies” has been credited to Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), but the earliest citations do not appear to come from Mandela. “Being resentful, they say, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die” was cited in print in 1995 and “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping it’ll kill someone else. — Alan Brandt” was also cited in 1995. Irish-American author Malachy McCourt said in 1998, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

“You will hardly have any doubt as to who will receive the benefit of the poison” was written in The Sermon on the Mount (1938) by Emmet Fox—a book that was popular in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), where it appears that the saying was popularized. American actress and author Carrie Fisher wrote in 2003:

“It was best put by what she’d heard someone in AA say a few years back: ‘Resentment is like drinking a poison and then waiting for the other person to die.’”

“The Buddha compared holding on to anger to grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You, of course, are the one who gets burned” was cited in print in 1987. This “grasping a hot coal” saying was explained on the blog Fake Buddha Quotes on June 14, 2012, followed by the “drinking poison” quote on Fake Buddha Quotes on June 26, 2012.


HarryKatz.com—eBook
The Sermon on the Mount:
The Key to Success in Life

BY Emmet Fox
New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap
1938
Pg. 78:
No Scientific Christian ever considers hatred or execration to be “justifiable” in any circumstances, but whatever your opinion about that might be, there is no question about its practical consequences to you. You might as well swallow a dose of prussic acid in two gulps, and think to protect yourself by saying, “This one is for Robespierre; and this one for the Bristol murderer.” You will hardly have any doubt as to who will receive the benefit of the poison.

Google Books
Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
By Joan Borysenko and Larry Rothstein
Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.
1987
Pg. 170:
The Buddha compared holding on to anger to grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You, of course, are the one who gets burned.

Google Books
Surviving the Secret
By Pam W. Vredevelt and Kathryn Rodriguez
Old Tappan, NJ: F.H. Revell
1987
Pg. 128:
Stuffing anger away is like holding a hot coal in your hand. You get burned.

29 October 1988, Titusville (PA) Herald, “News of Spartansburg” by Florence Sherlock, pg. 12, col. 2:
Thought for today: Good sense is easier to have than use. “Well adjusted” means you can make the same mistakes over and over again and keep smiling. Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else—you are the one who gets burned.

Google Books
Thinking Positive:
Words of inspiration, encouragement, and validation for people with AIDS and those who care for them

By Ashton Applewhite
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
1995
Pg. 45:
Resentment is like taking poison and hoping it’ll kill someone else. — Alan Brandt

Google Books
A Woman’s Life:
The Story of an Ordinary American and Her Extraordinary Generation

By Susan Cheever
New York, NY: HarperCollins
1995
Pg. 133:
Being resentful, they say, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

New York (NY) Times
AT LUNCH WITH: Malachy McCourt—How a Rogue Turns Himself Into a Saint; The Blarney Fails to Hide an Emotional Directness
By ALEX WITCHEL
Published: July 29, 1998
Malachy McCourt says his railing days are over.

‘’I had a murderous rage in my heart of Limerick, the humiliation of coming out of the slums,’’ he says of his hometown in Ireland, the setting of his brother Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, ‘’Angela’s Ashes.’’ ‘’It made you feel like nothing and there was no place to go but down. It was assumed we’d be low-class the rest of our lives. But who can you blame? Governments and churches that are gone now? It’s useless. Let those things live rent-free in your head and you’ll be a lunatic. Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.’’

Google Groups: alt.religion.christian.boston-church
I Just Want My Husband Back
mj...@my-dejanews.com
10/25/98
Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other guy to die. . .”

22 October 1999, The Wayne Independent (Honesdale, PA), “Life is about what you do about what happens to you” by Tammy Compton, pg. 5, cols. 3-4:
Let go of grudge—“Holding on to a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping it kills somebody else.”
(Jen Enck.—ed.)

Google Books
The Best Awful:
A Novel

By Carrie Fisher
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
2003
Pg. 23:
She’d worked so hard to turn her boiling grudge against Leland down to a low-simmering ache. It was best put by what she’d heard someone in AA say a few years back: “Resentment is like drinking a poison and then waiting for the other person to die.”

Google Books
Wishful Drinking
By Carrie Fisher
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
2008
Pg. 153:
Before. I wrap up, I’d like to share some of the things with you that I’ve learned from going through all this nonsense.

. “Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Google Books
Beyond Forgiveness: Reflections on Atonement
Edited by Phil Cousineau
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
2011
Pg. ?:
I’m reminded of a quote from Nelson Mandela, which he didn’t write but did make famous: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.”

Google Books
Life...The Reader’s Digest Version:
Great Advice, Simply Put

By Peggy Northrop
White Plains, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
2011
Pg. ?:
Or, as one anyonymous (sic) wag put it, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other guy will die.”

Google Books
The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said
Edited by Robert Byrne
New York, NY: Touchstone
2012
Pg. ?:
1,200
Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. —Carrie Fisher

Fake Buddha Quotes
Posted on June 14, 2012
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of harming another; you end up getting burned.”
(...)
As far as I’m aware, this isn’t an actual quote from the Buddha, but a paraphrase of something said by Buddhaghosa, the 5th century commentator, in his great work, the Visuddhimagga. It’s perfectly in keeping with Buddhist teachings, but not canonical (again, as far as I know), and if Buddhaghosa had been quoting the Pāli canon I think he would have given a scriptural reference.

Buddhaghosa, in discussing anger said,

“By doing this you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.”
Visuddhimagga IX, 23.

Fake Buddha Quotes
Posted on June 26, 2012
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
There are many variants of this quote. Sometimes they’re attributed to the Buddha, and sometimes to the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, or to Nelson Mandela. I haven’t found anything resembling this quote in the Buddhist scriptures.

Until a friendly reader helped me out, I had found the quote in books by Anne Lamotte, Alice May, and Malachy McCourt, but I suspected they were all quoting someone else. The earliest references I’d found were from Alcoholics Anonymous, and that organization seemed like it might have been the original source, although I wondered if the saying may have existed in an orally transmitted form for some time before being committed to print.
(...)
. “I think resentment is when you take the poison and wait for the other person to die.” M.T. A Sponsorship Guide for 12-Step Programs (1995)
. When we hang on to resentments, we poison ourselves. As compulsive overeaters, we cannot afford resentment, since it exacerbates our disease. Elizabeth L. Food for Thought: Daily Meditations for Overeaters (1992)

Given that two of our earliest sources by M.T. and “Elizabeth L.” are from the 12-step traditions, it seemed possible — likely even — that the quote had “Anonymous” origins.

USA Today
15 of Nelson Mandela’s best quotes
Jessica Durando, USA TODAY Network 8:26 a.m. EST December 6, 2013
(...)
11) “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, December 20, 2013 • Permalink