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.
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!”
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.
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.
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
Tags: anger, arguments, bitterness, forgiveness, God's grace, intolerance, Marriage, resentment, root of bitterness, toxic people, unforgiveness
I recently left an emotionally abusive relationship and am struggling to forgive. It feels like I am left with so much baggage and I am fixing the damage my ex has caused both my daughter and I (both struggling with PTSD). It really feels unfair that the abuser walks away, acts all happy and gets on with life. Can you please help me understand abuse from a christian perspective? Thanks, Angela