This is the second of four articles on Resentment.
Resentment is a spiritual disease that creeps into our lives, puts down roots, and makes trouble for us. The first article in this series, Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 1: The Disease, explores the destructive nature of this ailment. It also points out the choice Christians make either to follow Christ’s example to love and forgive our offenders or to surrender our hearts and relationships to resentment.
If we’re serious about seeking a heart like Christ’s, we must be on the lookout for signs of bitterness infecting our attitudes and behaviors.
Ten Symptoms of a Bitter Heart
It’s probably safe to say that each of us has at one time or another experienced a full-blown, off–the-charts case of feverish resentment. We’re familiar with that churning in the gut, that obsessive ruminating about an offense so hurtful and unfair that we wonder how we can ever get past it.
But often resentment seeps into our attitudes and habits so gradually and subtly that we aren’t aware of its effect. Ask yourself the following ten questions to determine whether resentment has been quietly setting down roots in your heart.
Is it difficult for me to think anything good about my offender? Resentment confines us to one-sided thinking. We overlook positive or redeeming qualities in our offender so that we can justify our angry, negative stance.
Do I feel morally superior to my offender? When we are resentful, we convince ourselves that we are very different from the person who hurt us. We minimize our own offenses and reassure ourselves that we rank higher on God’s approval list than does our offender.
Are my prayers weighted with complaints and demands for justice? When resentment is nipping at our heels, we grow impatient for God to act and bring our offender to justice. We take on the role of Judge and decide what’s fair.
Do I resist blessing or praying for my offender? Still angry and hurt from the offense, we can barely tolerate the idea that God would bless and protect the person who caused our suffering. Resentment blocks the work of the Spirit in our lives and keeps us from extending mercy and grace.
Do I fantasize about getting even? When we’ve been hurt, our sinful nature always wants to even the score, to see the other person suffer as we have suffered. Resentment keeps a careful tally of offenses and retaliations.
Am I angry at God for allowing this person to hurt me? Satan uses resentment to weaken our faith. We listen to his lies and doubt that God is sovereign or that he cares about us.
Am I waiting for an apology before I’ll forgive? Resentment feeds our anger by convincing us that we are helpless victims. We trap ourselves in a prison of waiting, hoping the other person will admit to wrongdoing and express remorse.
Have I stopped reading my Bible? When we are convinced that resentment is keeping us strong and safe from further injury, we don’t want God to tell us otherwise. Scripture only confirms what we already know, that bitterness is not a solution but a source of heartache and trouble.
Do I enjoy feeling angry and self-righteous? A strong case of resentment affects the brain. We ride a euphoric wave of righteous indignation and self-justification, which counteracts our feelings of weakness and shame in the aftermath of being hurt.
Do I gossip about my offender? Maligning our offender’s reputation gains sympathy from others and reinforces our sense of superiority. The worse we can make our offender appear, the better we will seem by comparison and the more justified our resentment.
If you detect symptoms of resentment in your life, don’t despair—help is available! Your condition is treatable and you can still make a full recovery. Watch for the next two articles in the series:
Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 3: The Treatment. Discover the five steps of God’s healing solution for resentment.
Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 4: The Cure. Learn how to prevent bitter roots from taking hold of your heart with seven skills you can practice.