This is the first of four articles on Resentment.
Resentment is a poisonous attitude that infects our hearts, contaminates our relationships, and destroys our peace. When we suffer a relationship wound, resentment keeps our pain alive and prevents us from healing and moving on.
A Subtle Sickness
Like a virulent strain of flu, resentment can sneak past our defenses and lay siege to our hearts before we even realize we’ve been infected. In its early stages resentment may seem normal and justified. It can feel powerful, like a weapon we can use to keep ourselves strong and safe from further injury.
Far from keeping us strong, however, resentment damages our emotional health. An untreated grudge tends to fester, and soon we may succumb to a burning fever of outrage, hatred, and indignation. Curses fall from our lips; fantasies of payback intrude on our thoughts. We cannot hold a positive thought about the person who hurt us, much less forgive him or her. Our prayers become clamors for justice that drown out the Spirit’s voice reminding us of truths we do not want to hear.
A Case of Self-Importance
Resentment puts down roots in a heart that is preoccupied with self and an entitled agenda. We carry an unspoken rulebook in our heads that prescribes behaviors we think we have a right to expect from others. When people break these rules and disappoint us, our natural inclination is to get offended, angry, and hurt.
If we cultivate these harsh feelings—give them a nice, warm place to live and grow in our hearts—they will turn us bitter and keep us from forgiving. Resentment crowds out the work of the Spirit in our lives and denies us the grace of God’s healing solution to our relationship dilemmas.
The Choice to Follow Christ
In contrast to a resentful heart is a heart like Christ’s, that is, a servant’s heart. Jesus had a way of looking past external behaviors and seeing a person’s soul-deep need for God’s mercy and acceptance. Even from the cross he was compassionate and forgiving toward those who cursed and abused him, still perfectly aligned with his Father’s heart and will.
When confronted with a relationship wound, we can choose either to seek a heart like Christ’s or to allow resentment to fill and consume us. At some point we must decide whether to cling to our bitter feelings or release them so we can cling to Christ. We can’t have it both ways—we must let go of one to take hold of the other.
Read More About Resentment
Look for these upcoming articles on resentment in the next few weeks:
Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 2: The Symptoms. Watch out for these ten telltale signs that resentment has put down roots in your heart.
Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 3: The Treatment. Let Scripture teach you five ways to fight off the harmful effects of resentment.
Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 4: The Cure. Learn and practice seven skills to build up spiritual immunity and keep resentment out of your life for good.