We all know that forgiveness is a good thing… and not just for Christians. Even non-believers recognize the need to forgive and move forward with one’s life. But what about resentment?
While forgiveness isn’t easy, it’s usually easy to identify a problem of unforgiveness in your life. Resentment, however, has a way of sneaking up on you. It’s not so easily recognized. And if left to take root, resentment can grow into something that destroys you from the inside out.
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So perhaps we should define resentment…
*resentment – the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult. (dictionary.com)
Forgiveness is an act of mercy. It’s recognizing that yes, someone made a mistake. But you are willing to pardon their mistake and show them mercy. Resentment, however, is a feeling. (And it’s a feeling that many of us try to justify.) In some cases, we claim to forgive, but we harbor resentment, or bad feelings, about the person or the situation. It has a way of lingering long after the offense and “I’m sorry’s” take place.
Sometimes resentment comes as a rush of negative emotions. But more often than not, it starts small. It builds up over time, and before you know it, you can’t remember how it all began in the first place.
One final truth about resentment: Inevitably, it comes to the surface.
For example, let’s say my husband forgets to take out the trash before leaving for work. Yes, it’s a minor offense and an honest mistake; but let’s say that I allow this offense to plant a tiny seed of bitterness in my heart. And let’s say that he continues to forget from time to time… until finally, that seed has grown so large that I full-on unleash on my husband one morning. I over-react in anger because I allowed a seed of bitterness to take root.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
Here are four ways to combat resentment:
- Learn to recognize it in its beginning stages. – Since resentment can grow, it’s important to identify it early and uproot it before it has a chance to develop. Sometimes this is easier said than done. But by staying in the Word and relying on the Holy Spirit, we can identify these negative feelings before they have a chance to do any permanent damage to our lives.
- Pray for and serve those who hurt you. – The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies and to serve them with compassion. By doing this, we begin to see them through God’s eyes instead of our own, and we demonstrate the same love that God has for us.
Resentment and bitterness cannot take root in a heart that is filled with God’s love and compassion.
- Remember your purpose. – When Jesus ascended into heaven, He commissioned us to share the Good News of the Kingdom with the world… not just the people we get along with… but the whole world. We are called to love and advance the Gospel, and resentment only gets in the way of that mission.
- Rely on God’s strength. – When all else fails, God’s strength never does. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives inside of us as believers. In other words, we have a tremendous amount of strength to draw from! With His love, grace, mercy, and compassion living inside of us… resentment has no choice but to flee.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. – Hebrews 12:14-15 (ESV)
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.