Resentment. We all feel it from time to time.
It’s like the invisible undertow in the ocean that sweeps away even the most experienced swimmer. It pulls at us. It sucks us down into a pit of bitterness.
We hold a grudge. We secretly fume about what he said or she did. We keep a running list of how we’ve been wronged. We review how we’ve been hurt.
It is subtle until it is sudden.
Before we know it we’ve got this fire of anger in us and it’s sucking all the oxygen from our joy. We thought we had the right to feel resentful; after all, we weren’t treated fairly. But, then that right to be angry morphs into a rigor mortis that paralyzes us.
It keeps us from joy. It suffocates our happiness, and we become so locked up that we feel we can’t let it go.
But, we can. Sometimes we need to just stare that resentment in its ugly face and ask ourselves if we really want to keep company with it!
Is it really worth it?
Here are four questions to ask yourself to determine if your resentment is worth holding on to:
1. Does my resentment really serve me well?
Sometimes we keep the resentment burner simmering because we think it is fueling us — helping us hold on to our dignity or our position. But, really, all that heat is eating a hole in our souls. Resentment grows into anger and anger doesn’t serve us, it chains us up and keeps us from feeling free. Really, when you think about it, it is just plain counter-productive. We think we are the ones holding on to anger, but after a while, it is anger that has a hold on us. It doesn’t make our lives better, it just makes us more bitter.
Somehow we think that if we hold on to resentment it will hold our violator captive. The longer they are imprisoned by our wrath, the sooner they will change their ways. We hope our resentment emits some invisible force field that slowly but surely draws our offender to change. Then everything will be better. But resentment doesn’t change anything except us… it ushers in bitterness and leads to rage.
Resentment only makes a situation worse and it always brings out our worst.
The psalmist said it best: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret, it leads only to evil. Psalm 37:8 NIV
3. Does my resentment improve my relationship with God and others?
Resentment hinders relationships because it keeps us from believing the best about the person we resent. It keeps us from really knowing, trusting, forgiving and enjoying the person who we’re mad at. Every time we rehearse why we’re angry, we form a brick of bitterness and stack it on the wall we’re building between ourselves and that person.
Resentment, along with it’s BFFs anger and bitterness, doesn’t enhance any of our relationships. Rather, it separates us from others.
Even if we never say a word out loud, resentment creates a silent awkwardness that can explode into anger when we least expect it.
There is a reason Paul tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. If the sun goes down on our anger, you better believe that the sun will come right back up the next morning with our anger well rested and ready to consume us.
4. Who does my resentment really hurt? Me? God? Others?
Often we use our resentment and anger as weapons to wield at others so they will feel as bad as we do. But, the problem is, those weapons are boomerangs that always come back to hit us in our hearts. The one most hurt is us. It eats away at our peace, and it even eats away at our physical wellness.
Every time anger surges, it triggers a flight-or-fight response in our bodies. It causes our bodies to overflow with stress chemicals that, over time, can cause anything from headaches to heart attacks.
Besides all that, human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:20 NIV
Eventually, resentment hardens our hearts, isolates us from others, blurs our perspectives and puts a damper on our happiness.
It is just not worth it. If we are willing to let go of resentment, then resentment can’t grow within us and destroy us and our relationships.
Now, reading one blog won’t magically release us from resentment or diffuse our accumulated anger. But, choosing to forgive can be the first step toward freedom.
Perhaps this prayer can give you the words your heart needs to speak to God. He will help you to let go of resentment and receive His grace.
Lord, forgive me for not forgiving others. Give me wisdom and help me to be patient so I can overlook others’ offenses. Help me to not be easily provoked; give me a humble and calm spirit. Help me to vent to you in prayer instead of giving full vent to my rage. May the wisdom You give me help me to be an instrument of calm. Thank You for answering me and giving me strength. Amen.
This post originally appeared on JenniferRothschild.com and was republished with permission.
Jennifer Rothschild has written 14 books, including the bestseller Lessons I Learned in the Dark and Me, Myself, and Lies. She’s been featured on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil and is the founder of Fresh Grounded Faith events. Jennifer became blind at age 15 and now helps others live beyond limits.