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.
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’!
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.
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’
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.
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?
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.