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Recognizing Resentment…

May 22, 2012

 

 

We have examined over the past several weeks the struggles of doubt, jealousy, anger and complacency.  Each one of those traits and struggles is fundamentally sourced in human pride and sinfulness.  And with each we have examined the individual ways and strategies to combat their ill-effects.  But what happens when those ill-effects linger?  What happens if we fail to combat anger with the love and mercy of God?  What effects occur when we fail to cast our eyes on Christ and overcome doubt?  What happens to our relationships when we fail to repent of our jealousy and rightly give glory to God for all He has given us and others? The answer to these questions is resentment.  Resentment is not a core condition, it is not a primary residence for feeling, rather resentment is the effect of the on-going presence of anger, jealousy, envy, doubt and pride.

Resentment is best described as being like rust.  We can drive over a bridge, or pass an old car and see the tell-tale signs of decay and destruction.  Rust weakens structures through the slow and deliberate reactionary process of decay.  But rust is not the primary cause of the weakness.  Rust is the after effect of a process called oxidation.  When iron metal is exposed to air (oxygen) and water the molecules begin to slowly decay.  The effect of this decay is rust.  If left untreated, rust will weaken the strongest structures and turn what was once dependable and sure into something that may appear strong but in fact is frail.  This is like resentment.  Resentment is a slow process, that begins with weaknesses inherent in the structure of our make up as sinful humans.  Without proper care and precaution, we harbor hatred and anger, un-forgiveness and jealousy and soon this creates resentment.  Slowly, perhaps in ways not obvious to others, we begin to corrode and decay, we become weak and ultimately unstable.

God has given us our emotions for His Glory; our memory for His Glory; our energy for His Glory, but resentment pollutes and perverts all of these gifts.  Resentment turns our emotions against us, as we take our eyes off of God and place them on others.  When we rightly place our gaze on God, we relate all occurrences to His mercy and grace; to the point that whenever something good happens to someone else we feel good and rejoice in what God has done for them.  But resentment occurs when we take our eyes off of God and look at other people, comparing our lives to theirs absent the perspective of God’s sovereignty.  We begin to be jealous of them, we’re envious and this slowly begins to produce within us resentment.

God has given us memory to recall His past glory and to shore up our future hope.  How glorious is one’s memory when it is rightly reflecting on what God has done.  But resentment molds our memories and steals our joy and hope.  Its like an overdeveloped photograph, you can see faint details of the event captured, but the overall picture of the past is overwhelmed by this tinge of haze that crowds out the details of the picture.  Resentment colors events and crowds out the good details of the past and overemphasizes the negative ones.  We can see this so clearly in the Exodus narrative.  The Israelites are delivered from 400 years of slavery and bondage and once in the wilderness slowly begin to resent, well, everything.  The resent God, feeling as though He delivered them out to die in the wilderness.  They resent Moses because He is the only one who has communion with God.  And their memories are polluted by this resentment to the point that they begin to wish for their old life in Egypt.  This is why so often in the Psalms and in the Prophets the writers admonish the people of Israel to remember the works of the Lord!  Remember His goodness, do not be caught up in resentment; this gives us hope when we remember His love and care for us.

God has given us Energy for His glory, and by energy I mean the desire to be active and work for God.  God has given each and every one of us a task, no matter where we are in life to proclaim the gospel! We are to have an outward direction to our energies as we “go into all the nations…” baptizing and teaching, proclaiming the “marvelous excellencies of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:8)  But resentment redirects our energy.  Instead of pouring out, our energies are directed inward to ourselves.  We cease to be of any use for the kingdom as we spend so much time caught up in our own anger and envy of others.

Ultimately we may appear structurally sound, but if the sins of pride, jealousy, and anger have taken residence in our hearts, the rust of resentment begins to appear.  And if left un-addressed, overtime, it will eat away at us and we will become increasingly weak and less and less useful.

 

“Resentment is like you taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (Anonymous)

 

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2 comments

  1. Great post!
    I found it interesting what Wikipedia says about resentment:
    “Robert C. Solomon, a professor of continental philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, places resentment on the same line-continuum with contempt and anger. According to him, the differences between the three emotions are as follows: resentment is directed towards higher-status individuals, anger is directed towards equal-status individuals and contempt is directed towards lower-status individuals.”


    • I think that Solomon’s comments have some merit. I have always distinguished between the causes of resentment and resentment itself. As I mention in the post; pride, anger, jealousy, envy these root emotions if left untamed lead to resentment, which is the ongoing emotional experience of anger, jealousy etc. toward someone else. To put it another way, I think that one could be angry without being resentful; but one could not be resentful without being angry.

      Thanks for your comment!



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