This is the fourth and final article on Resentment.
The first article in the series, Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 1: The Disease, describes the subtle danger of harboring a resentful attitude when we have been wounded in a relationship. Resentment keeps the pain alive and prevents God’s healing work in our hearts.
The second article in the series, Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 2: The Symptoms, lists the telltale signs of a bitter attitude. The third article, Rx for A Bitter Heart, Part 3: The Treatment, suggests a five-step treatment model for fighting off its harmful effects.
Living Without Resentment
To pursue a heart like Christ’s means blocking resentment at every opportunity. It means resisting the allure of nursing a grudge and alerting ourselves to all the subtle ways that bitterness can enter our hearts and put down it destructive roots.
One sure way to keep bitterness out of our hearts is to stop ourselves from taking offense in the first place. We often don’t realize that we choose how we will respond to others—whether to be angry or hurt or insulted. At the critical moment we can choose not to become offended, not to take the incident into our hearts and let it harden and embitter us. We can decide to let it go.
A second sure way to keep bitterness out of our hearts is to build up spiritual immunity.
BUILD UP Immunity
In the same way that we exercise our bodies to stay healthy and strong, so also we can work our spiritual muscles and develop spiritual immunity that keeps us strong and resistant to resentment.
Listed below are seven skills that you can learn and practice to BUILD UP immunity to resentment. Drawn from biblical wisdom, these skills will help you change your attitudes and habits and defend your heart against bitter roots.
B – Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19-20; Proverbs 29:11; Ecclesiastes 7:9) – Learning to listen more than we speak can keep us from jumping to wrong conclusions and overreacting to a situation. Scripture reminds us that a quick temper is often linked with fools. Count to ten, curb your tongue, and curb your anger.
U – Use your tongue wisely. (James 3:8; Proverbs 12:18; 16:24) – James calls the tongue “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Yet in Proverbs we also read, “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” Words have the power to hurt or to heal. Notice your language and practice speaking in ways that honor God and encourage others.
I – Imitate Christ. (Philippians 2:3, 5-8) – Paul tells us to adopt the attitude of Christ, who gave up divinity to become human and suffer for our sakes. Self-importance breeds resentment, but taking on the nature of a servant makes us like Christ. Be humble, surrender your will to God, and consider the interests of others before your own.
L – Lead with love. (Colossians 3:12-14) – We can protect ourselves from bitterness by clothing ourselves with love, which binds together all the resources we need to live together peacefully—compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. Love begins with God, and when we surrender our relationships to him, he gives us the love and the grace we need to forgive one another.
D – Depend on God. (John 15:5; Mark 10:27) – When God asks us to return good for evil, he does not intend for us to act out of our own goodness. Rather, he tells us to rely on him as branches rely on the vine for strength and sustenance. Without God we can do nothing, but with him all things are possible, even forgiving what may seem unforgivable.
U – Understand that people will fail you. (Ephesians 4:2) – People hurt and disappoint us, whether by malicious intent, careless indifference, or innocent mistake. Humility protects us from becoming bitter because we realize that we are just as prone to hurting and disappointing others. Toughen your emotional skin against insults but let humility soften your heart and give you patience to let people be imperfect.
P – Pursue peace. (Matthew 5:9) – Followers of Christ are called to be peacemakers. When you choose peace over resentment, your Father’s goodness and reconciling nature become visible in you.
The Bottom Line
Resentment is serious but need not be fatal. You have the tools to recognize it, to weaken its hold on you, and ultimately to eliminate it from your life.
Here are 3 final tips for fighting off resentment:
- Fix your eyes on Christ and not on your offender.
- Stay alert and treat a grudge early, before it has time to set down roots.
- Trust God to work for your good through every circumstance.