Resentment Revisited 2

This is the second part of an article exposing our human tendency to withhold forgiveness and to allow resentment, bitterness and anger to rule our hearts. (see below for links to the first 2 articles on Resentment: Resolving Resentment and Resentment Revisited)

Our human heart objects to forgiving others and relies on several tricks to excuse its unforgiveness.  One trick is to give partial forgiveness and then stop forgiving, as if you now have a right to be hard hearted, because you have already shown grace.

We saw that resentments come from our unresolved issues of the past, where withholding forgiveness makes issues out of those things we hold onto.  Now let’s look at another source of resentments.

The Way I Want It

Another source of resentments is our selfish desire to have things our way.  We all want to be loved, valued and appreciated, and we all want to have an easy life if we can get it.

Once we have determined the way we want things to be we can easily fall into resentment of those who upset our plans, block fulfilment of our will and so on.

If we don’t get the attention we want from family, spouse or friends we can become resentful.

If our spouse and family continually frustrate our hopes and dreams we can become resentful.

If our personal capacities let us down we can resent ourself and even resent God for making us with such limitations.

If you want peace and quiet you will resent those who take it from you.  If you want lots of intimacy, you will resent the spouse that is not interested.  If you want to live in a big house you will resent those that obstruct that objective.  If you want to be the centre of attention you will resent those you must compete with and those who don’t value you as much as you want.

“We weren’t supposed to start a family so quickly.”  “I wasn’t counting on your health being such a problem.”  “I didn’t expect your family to be so interfering.”  “Why don’t people just leave me in peace?”  “I really thought you were going to make something of yourself.”  “I never expected you to be so much like your mum.”  “I thought I could trust you to make wise decisions but you just keep messing things up.”

How do you like things to be?  Do your spouse and family frustrate your hopes and dreams?  Have you forgiven them yet or are you carrying resentment toward them?

It Is Not Fair

Justice issues are another interesting area of resentment.  Are you intolerant of injustice?  Such intolerance appears to be very noble, but you may actually be a slave to bitterness.

I have seen people get on their high horse, as the expression has it, and go charging into a situation in defence of justice.  They are incensed by something they will not let pass: someone wrongly judged; someone not sharing properly; selfishness displayed; or whatever.  The justice champion cannot but dive into the situation and berate the offender.

A common expression of this motivation is the “It’s not fair!” claim so readily heard from the mouth of children.  What they are really saying is, “I’m offended by that”.

A wise parent teaches a child that life is not fair and that each of us must respond to our situations with godly character, grace and faith.  In the absence of such wisdom children learn to fight about the matter of fairness and become demanding, intolerant, hyper-sensitive and so on.

Don’t be fooled by your noble and righteous indignation at those who are selfish, arrogant, loud, exploitative, thoughtless or whatever.  I dare suggest that your reactions are evidence of issues you have not resolved, rather than a divine calling to right the wrongs on earth.

Cleaning the Garage

As I visited friends a few weeks ago I saw their neighbour trying to clean out her garage.  The mother of the family directed the exercise and her tone and demands clearly indicated that she was driving the project and had little trust in getting the help she needed voluntarily.

She shouted like a sergeant-major and found fault with the efforts of her husband and teenage son.  Within half an hour the husband drove off at high speed, revving his motor in what seemed to be a show of machismo, as if to say he is a real man and not really dominated by his wife.  The husband did not return until the whole ordeal was well over.  Several hours later the woman was still scolding the children helping her.  She was on a crusade and it sounded like a dreaded ordeal for all involved.

She probably had very good reasons to act as she did.  Her husband probably lets her down repeatedly.  Her children probably resent being recruited into her projects and subjected to her ugly attitude and tone.  It is probably a toxic experience for everyone.

And that’s consistent with the warning in Hebrews.  If you allow a root of bitterness to grow inside you then many people will be defiled (Hebrews 12:15 ).  In fact, the whole process gets poisoned.

And in such a case it is probably impossible to imagine handling the situation differently, without any resentment, but with plenty of grace.

Resentment Free

If all resentment was removed and thorough forgiveness given then there would be no hurt, disappointment, frustration, shame or similar negatives in the way of getting the job done.

In such a case a happy discussion and negotiation could be explored to see how best to achieve the objective.  Where disagreement exists then godly wisdom can be applied to come to a gracious agreement that does not grow a crop of bitterness.

Accusations and vilifications would not occur.  Despairing thoughts and emotional outbursts would not be part of the process.  Any ruffled feathers would be soon smoothed over by finding God’s grace and keeping that grace as the key quality of the whole exchange.

Manipulation would not be resorted to, nor taking command of the lives of others so as to squeeze from them the required obedience.

And I think to myself (to quote a line from a song), “What a wonderful world!

How Else

Many a frustrated person will protest by asking, “If I don’t get angry and let people know how they let me down, how can I get them to do the right thing?”

I fully sympathise with the question, but please stop a moment and consider its implications.

The only mechanism you have developed in order to get things done to your satisfaction is an evil and toxic mechanism.  You are highly unqualified to lead any project at all if your skill set is limited to anger and abuse.  Rather than being a person of grace who can bless, train and lead others, you are so limited that your only powertool is toxic treatment of others.  You are actively sowing poison into others in order to get your will followed.

And who is to say your ideas of the “right thing” are correct?  If you have to contend with people to get them to fit in with your idea of what is right, then maybe you are the one who is out of order.

Why is YOUR way or YOUR priority, which others don’t seem to be supporting, the way that must be enforced?  What if you are trying to control and drive people to fulfil your agenda when God does not care as much for your agenda as you do?

Remember Martha telling Jesus to force Mary to do what Martha wanted, and Jesus saying that Martha had it wrong (see Luke 10:38-42).

Put Down that Knife

If you are a control freak, totally sold out to the offences that drive you, and determined to have your way, your justification, your vengeance or whatever else YOU think is vital, then you will have already gagged at what I am saying.  You will have your knives drawn to cut me down to size and let me know how justified you are in being angry, resentful, indignant, controlling and demanding, since you are standing on holy ground and everyone else is mired in irresponsibility, foolishness and self will.

But remember the words of Christ.  If you do not forgive you will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14).  If you demand that others pay their debt to you then God will deliver you into the hands of ‘tormentors’ (Matthew 18:34,35).  And the torment you display suggests you are already under God’s sentence of punishment.

Check out my article titled Resolving Resentment to see the Biblical basis for these claims.

You have abandoned God’s grace and the mental and emotional distress that now drives you to torment others is a stinking mess that YOU have made.  Others have not made it for you.

You desperately need to apply forgiveness to all those who incense you and who you feel so offended by.  If you do not then you are doomed to deeper misery than you currently have and you will burn off more and more of your family and friends.  You are TOXIC, despite your prideful belief that you are on God’s side.

Better Solutions

People are selfish and irresponsible.  Your spouse, family, friends and associates fit that description.  You will be let down and hurt by those people.  That’s an everyday part of life.

You will either resent life or you will bring God’s grace into it.  As you learn to forgive and extend grace to people who do not deserve it, just as you want God to extend His grace to you when you don’t deserve it, life will become a blessing and a joy, instead of a wrangle.

In order to resolve differences and difficulties you have with your spouse, family or friends, you are best to start with a clean heart and free spirit.  Resentment, anger, frustration, jealousy, wilfulness, prejudice, and the like are barriers to the better solutions you need.  Remove those barriers immediately by giving open hearted forgiveness to all those who offend you.

Then work with God and your spouse, family and friends to find a godly and blessed solution.

You may have to change your priorities, because they are unrealistic.  You may have to accept others for who they really are, not who you want them to be.  You may need to inspire others to see the merit of things you hold dear.  You may need to see the wisdom of their different way of doing things, and give up your limited concepts about how things and what things are to be done.

You Choose

There are only two options in dealing with the upsets of life.  You either find and give God’s grace to those who offend and fail you, or you become bitter toward them, a root of bitterness springs up in your life and you and many others become defiled.

If your relationships involve contention, argument, disappointment, resentment, wrangling, hardness of heart, or similar negative elements, then you have already made bad choices in the past and are living with the toxic results.

I don’t have to live your life or live with you.  If you want to go ahead and mangle your life then do so as much as you want.  But please don’t live in deception any longer.  You are not a noble agent of God, but a miserable, selfish and bitter person who has personally chosen to come under the power of evil and to damage all those around you.  If you choose to live in unforgiveness then you have everything you deserve.

If you are willing to humble yourself, let me encourage you with this wonderful news.  By you simply following God’s instructions, forgiving all who offend you, God’s grace and His heavenly blessings will be released into your life, no matter how desperately bad things are right now.

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your offspring may live” Deuteronomy 30:19

The earlier articles on Resentment can be found by these links:
Resolving Resentment http://chrisfieldblog.com/2012/01/02/resolving-resentment
Resentment Revisited (part 1) http://chrisfieldblog.com/2012/09/12/resentment-revisited

Resentment Revisited

Resentment is probably the most prevalent disease in relationships and marriages today.

In my previous Resolving Resentment article (http://chrisfieldblog.com/2012/01/02/resolving-resentment) I showed how Forgiveness is the key to unlocking and removing the resentments that poison relationships.

I now revisit Resentment to help bring home its presence and to help people grapple with its impact in their heart and home.  This article is in 2 parts so after you have read this, look for Resentment Revisited 2 to complete the thoughts I want to share with you.

Resisting Forgiveness

Our human heart is totally selfish and proud.  It resists forgiveness and chooses resentment.  Resentment is really just a soft label for bitterness.  Bitterness is totally toxic and means we have refused to show God’s grace to those we are offended by or angry with.

Our determination to be bitter means we quickly develop a variety of Objections to Forgiveness.  And what is more we can even pride ourselves that we gave partial forgiveness and have put up with the other person better than others might.  At heart we can be real ‘stinkers’!

Limited Forgiveness

A common approach to forgiveness is to give Partial Forgiveness and to applaud ourselves for doing so.  At heart we are Objecting to forgiveness, and using Partial Forgiveness as a way out of forgiveness.

We see an example of this in Peter the Apostle.  Peter accepted Jesus’ teaching about the need to forgive, but in his heart Peter really wanted to take a hard stand against those who offended him.  Look at the historical record of the event, recorded for us by Matthew the Tax Collector.

“Then came Peter to him (Jesus), and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21,22

Peter thought that forgiving his brother SEVEN times was pretty good.  Imagine being offended by the same person the same way Seven Times!  That would be SO offensive.  Forgiving someone Seven times sounds pretty impressive under those circumstances.

Surely there has to be a limit to forgiveness.  If a husband continues to forget anniversaries, continues to drink too much, continues to embarrass his wife in public, continues to waste money, continues to ignore his wife’s advice, or continues any other offensive behaviour, then SURELY there must be a limit to any forgiveness.

And what about a wife who continues to ignore her husband’s wishes, continues to rubbish him to her friends, continues to nag him about his failings, continues to manipulate him, continues to frustrate his interest in intimacy, or continues any other offensive behaviour?  Surely there must be a limit to forgiveness in such cases.

Unlimited Forgiveness

Jesus responded to Peter’s question about limited forgiveness by saying there is no real limit to forgiveness.  We are to forgive and keep on forgiving.  What ever we think is our absolute limit needs to be multiplied ten times and then multiplied by the original number all over again.

If we offer ‘partial forgiveness’ then we have not truly forgiven.

And there is nothing to boast about that we have put up with this or that for so long or so many times.  There is no room for pride in our partial forgiveness.

What Really Happens

People normally put up with something that bothers them for a while, then decide they have a right to explode, react, get angry, resent the action and be bitter toward the offender.  People even see their short lived patience as a badge of honour and they usually broadcast the fact that they have been tolerant, as if that excuses their anger, resentment and final UNFORGIVENESS.

“I haven’t said anything for three days, but you just keep on doing what you are doing and so, ENOUGH is ENOUGH!”  “I’ve had a belly full of your behaviour and I’m not taking it any more.”  “This has gone TOO FAR!”  “I’ve been patient with you, and I haven’t said anything before, but I just have to tell you that I am angry with what you are doing.”  “You have no idea what you have put me through and how patient I have been!”

Despite all those high sounding self affirmations about how wonderful we have been putting up with the other person’s faults, what really happens is that we give in to Unforgiveness.  We choose to be Unforgiving and to then be angry, resentful, judgmental, condemning, etc.

Our pride justifies our anger and unforgiveness and we commend ourselves for having temporarily endured the offence, when in truth we have violated God’

Human Limits

Whether we actually ‘forgive’ or just try to tolerate the other person’s behaviour for a while we usually have pretty short limits.  Peter thought that forgiving SEVEN times was pretty impressive.

It could even be that Peter was proud of his incredible willingness to forgive an offender Seven times.  He had no hesitation in offering the idea to Jesus, as if it was a pretty good offer.

Our human hearts are evil and so we don’t want to act like God or Christ and to forgive.  That is why Christ warned us that if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven, Matthew 6:15.  We are so prone to reacting badly to other people’s failures, while wanting to be excused from our own.

Resentment is Resentment

Whether you give in to resentment the instant you are offended, or whether you forgive someone seven times before you give in to resentment, Resentment is still Resentment.  Anger is still anger.  Bitterness is still bitterness.  Unforgiveness is till unforgiveness, even if you gave partial forgiveness for a while before you reverted to unforgiveness.

Your temporary tolerance, incredible patience and limited forgiveness don’t count for anything.  You have allowed a root of bitterness to spring up and to defile you and those around you (Hebrews 12:15).  Your heart reaction is wrong, and you failed to give God’s grace to someone who needs it.

What is more, you set yourself up as judge.  Despite God’s warnings that we are not to judge others (Matthew 7:1) a person who becomes angry and resentful has stood in judgement of someone.  In fact, they have set themselves up as “Judge, Jury and Executioner”!  They judge the person to be out of order, find them to be “guilty” and then prescribe the punishment.  The punishment is that the offender is subjected to the anger and resentment of the one standing in judgement.

Our choice to resent someone means we think we can stand in God’s place and lord ourselves over the other person.  And that’s pride.

Growing Your Resentments

Where do resentments come from?  Obviously they come from our decision to be angry and unforgiving toward those who offend us.

By that process, however, we each grow our own garden of resentments, based on our past decisions about the things we will resent.  Some people have a flourishing garden of resentments and live their lives in a perpetual state of reaction to people who offend them.

Since this is so very debilitating, as well as against God’s instruction to show grace to people and even to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43,44), we should have a closer look at how this process takes place in our lives.

People I Dislike

When we are offended by a person or a situation and allow resentment to spring up we easily become resentful of all people or situations that remind us of that original offence.

You will be familiar with the idea that, “I just can’t stand people like that!”  Whatever the “like that” is in your case, and whatever it is that you can’t stand, it represents a pet resentment you are growing in your life.

The problem for you is that you have been offended in the past and not given forgiveness to the one who offended or wronged you.

Guess what might be unresolved in your life if you say things like these.  “I can’t stand bossy people.”  “I can’t tolerate such injustice.”  “That look on someone’s face makes my blood boil.”  “I have absolutely no time for people like that.”  “Don’t raise your eyebrows at me when I’m talking to you!”  “You just think you’re SO superior, don’t you.”  “I’m not going to let that happen to me ever again.”  “I won’t have someone looking down at me.”
People have issues about being belittled, ignored, misunderstood, misrepresented, falsely accused, taken for granted, used and rejected.  Some people engage the rest of their lives trying to even some score, prove some point, vindicate themselves, right some wrong or otherwise react to some offence they have never forgiven.

Learned Intolerances

Every time we fail to show God’s grace to someone who wrongs us we become trapped in bitterness.  We are warned that the only alternative to giving grace is to have a “root of bitterness” spring up in our life (Hebrews 12:15).

We don’t like the word ‘bitterness’ so we use such terms as resentment, anger, frustration and intolerance, because those things sound reasonable, and can even be justified as a righteous response to someone else’s evil.

The examples can be quite obvious, like having a bossy older sister causing people to be intolerant of strong minded women.  At the same time we each have unique and personal opportunities to learn intolerance toward certain types of people or behaviour.  Our intolerance is really a sign of a root of bitterness inside us.

People despise the favoured child in their family, feeling wronged by not getting the same attention.  People despise the over confident person who always outperforms them.  People resent others who get privileges they did not get.  And on it goes.  Much of the energy behind feminism is fuelled by feelings of resentment toward males.

What are your intolerances?

Resolve It

Discovering your intolerances and uncovering your bitterness is not a game where you get to bring up how others have hurt you.  It is a vital challenge to your heart, calling you to whole-heartedly forgive those who have offended you in the past.

Don’t revisit your pain, but RESOLVE IT!

All the unfinished business in your heart needs to be removed by you forgiving every offender who ever wronged you.  Give up your unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment and anger.  Despite what those people have done, your only hope of a better future is for you to forgive them.

If you do not forgive them you end up in the hands of spiritual tormentors, as Jesus warns in Matthew 18:34,35.  So the mess you are now in is not because of the way they treated you but because of your refusal to forgive them.

Stop blaming others for their faults when YOU are the worst enemy to your happiness and blessing.

Grow up and resolve your issues right now, by choosing to forgive people who don’t deserve to be forgiven, just as you want God to forgive you even though you don’t deserve it.

There is More

If you find these thoughts helpful then look out for the second part of this article on Resentment Revisited.  I have additional practical insights to share with you, so you can be free and so you can help others.

Look out for Resentment Revisited 2.

How Relationships Work Part Three

Interpersonal relationships are among our most precious life experiences. And they DO work. However, it is also common for people to mess up their relationships. There are two main causes for damage to relationships. One cause is simple ignorance. Some people are selfish, inconsiderate, foolish, naïve or irresponsible, and they blunder on, damaging the things God has given them.

Another cause is more sinister, when a person acts selfishly on purpose. They may know better, but are simply determined to be the centre of their universe. Among this category are the argumentative, the users and abusers and the self-centred fools.

This series on how relationships work is starting out as an educative source for those who are sensible enough to learn and lift their game. Before the series is out I will add some straight talk, as I have done elsewhere, about the matters of sheer determined selfishness.

Interpersonal Ignorance

The problem in many relationships is often simple interpersonal ignorance. When people do not understand relationship, or understand themselves and others, they may enter into tensions in complete ignorance of how they are part of the problem. Selfishness is one of the worst diseases to bring into any relationship. And ignorance of its existence and impact will cost dearly.

A few simple ‘home truths’ about people and how they relate, combined with a few simple ‘common sense’ strategies will go a long way to helping people reduce their interpersonal tensions. Add to that some personal healing, humility, wisdom and submission to godly claims on their life and pain filled relationships can become joyful and fulfilling again.

Reactions are a big problem. Making demands is a serious issue. Disengaging authority is really dangerous. So let me take you through some of these issues.

Buttons on Your Dashboard

Don’t be a ‘reaction’. Each of us has a set of buttons on the dashboard of our life. There are certain ways in which people can rub us up the wrong way, offend us, awaken our areas of pain and weakness, touch our raw nerve and press our buttons.

The issue is that of our reactions. In an ideal situation each of us should be so whole and complete on the inside that we never need to react to anything. By ‘react’ I mean to be trapped in an involuntary and predictable response impulse which interrupts other things we could or should be focused on.

My son, Christopher, was in a high speed motorcycle filming sequence recently when a large insect flew at his face mask. He did not need to react to that, since the mask would deflect the insect. But he instinctively reacted, pulling his head to the side. The head movement threw his motorbike off course as he entered a corner at high speed. Consequently he and his bike ran off the road, became airborne and crashed into a ditch, leaving him unconscious and the bike and camera written off.

The buttons on the dash have a similar effect. They cause us to fly into response mode. The consequences can be very serious. So it is important to be so resolved in our own inner life that we simply do not need to react to accusation, offence, hurts, words, shame, or any such thing.

Removing Buttons

For people who react it is as if there is a set of buttons on the dashboard of their life. When someone presses one of those buttons the response can be instant, significant and relied upon to happen.

If a man’s ego is challenged or if a woman is insulted we often see the person react. This is typical of the “button on the dash” problem.

Those buttons on our dashboard need to be deactivated and the whole panel removed from our life. This takes the ministry of the Holy Spirit, instruction from the Word of God and application of the Grace of God to deactivate the programmed responses and sinful, selfish commitments we have set up in our lives.

We need to be open to the Lord’s rebuke. We need to open our hearts to the Lord’s instruction. We need to expand our understanding of truths and principles which may be missing in our lives. We need to learn godly disciplines and gain control over our own spirit. We need to put our pride to death, along with the lusts which drive us. We need to forgive those who offended us and trust God to be our shield and exceeding great reward. We need to look to Him, and not to our own energies, to establish our security for the future.

Yielding Rights

Part of dealing with the buttons in our life is yielding our rights. This is the process of dying to self and making ourselves of no reputation, as Jesus did. It is the process of putting other people first.

Most westerners have been raised to think that their existence is all about themselves. Their hopes, wants, feelings, demands, needs, urges and impulses rule them. Yielding rights is part of the process of dying to self and putting God and others ahead of ourselves. If your life motto proves to be “It’s all about ME!” then you will have serious relationship issues through the years.

Yielding rights involves you making the commitment that “It’s not all about me, but it’s about me serving and glorifying God and blessing others”. When you get yourself out of the way you will be much more able to sustain successful interpersonal relationships.

Zone and Mouth Disease

In part one of this series I introduced you to the Zombie Zone. In part two I discussed how many people need to be affirmed by input from or interaction with others. A mismatch between these two inclinations leads to tensions and upsets.

Let’s consider the couple who have ‘zone and mouth disease’. One of them is in their private relaxation zone – maybe watching TV, reading a book or driving the car. The other feels the need to speak and be noticed in some way.

When the person in their private zone is disrupted they can selfishly be offended, or they can happily pull their self out of their private musings and attend to the matter raised. They can decide to bless the other with their attentive listening and helpful contribution to the discussion.

When the person who feels the need to speak sees the other person zoned out, or does not get the response they want from the person who is otherwise turned off to some degree, they can selfishly be offended, or they can happily leave that person to some peace and quiet. They can decide to bless the other person by taming their urge to speak or be acknowledged.

Intolerance

One problem that develops in relationships is that the parties become intolerant of the other person’s habitual actions. It can be that one spouse will turn off to the other and that other will be given to pressing their claim on the spouse who is not listening. Both spouses become intolerant of the other’s treatment of them. This intolerance factor becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of frustration.

“He (or she) switches off!” “Yes, but she (or he) won’t leave me alone!”

To make that worse, some people press themselves on their spouse for bad reasons. They may be insecure, controlling, resentful, agitated, anxious or the like. They find it impossible to let their spouse have peace and quiet. If they feel unresolved they feel compelled to inflict their feelings onto their spouse. They become intolerant of the spouse’s freedom from their own frustrations.

At the same time, some spouses disengage and will not accept responsibility for their actions, words or duties. They may be lazy, careless, fed-up, selfish, irresponsible, incompetent, or the like, and resent all pressure to change, even if it is valid. They quickly become intolerant of the demands being made upon them.

Aim for Relationship

Remember that relationship is built on two people ‘relating’. How can they walk together unless they are agreed?

When disagreement has sprung up the two will not be able to ‘relate’, so the relationship will be damaged. What you need to do is aim for relationship, not your selfish wishes.

When you put yourself ahead of the relationship, even if you think the other person has been wrong, you are doing damage to that relationship. Self is an alternative to the relationship, not a means of helping the relationship.

Relationships work when people put the relationship first and their selfish demands second. So, no matter what has been happening in your marriage or family, aim for Relationship!

The Relationships Series of Articles ….
Part One: http://chrisfieldblog.com/marriage/relationships-work-1
Part Two:
http://chrisfieldblog.com/marriage/relationships-work-2
Part Three: http://chrisfieldblog.com/marriage/relationships-work-3
Part Four: http://chrisfieldblog.com/marriage/relationships-work-4