Series: Emotions You Thought You Knew
Resentment is anger gone underground and stretched out over time. When resentment seeps into the soil of our hearts it cultivates a victim mindset and a sour and ceaseless pursuit of personal and often selfish justice. Resentment is what happens when we won’t let go of an offense but we also are unwilling to confront it head on.
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I have noticed in myself and many others a pull to avoid truth when it is inconvenient, awkward, offensive or brings any kind of conflict. Even with those we love and trust, we beat around the bush. We hope that they “get the hint” without actually saying it. We often manipulate others to try and get them to respond the ways we want to without having to risk speaking our truth. The worst part is, we get upset with people for not fulfilling uncommunicated expectations. We say “that’s fine” or “I’m okay” when it is really not fine or okay. This gets ugly quickly. We play the martyr and internally rationalize why we are right and they are wrong… but we also rationalize reasons to avoid saying what we feel.
Just like any other ANGER emotion, resentment is trying to tell us a boundary has been broken. But because we have not given our anger anywhere to escape to it becomes a poison that seeps into the soil of our lives. We start living in a victim mindset, despairing that nothing can be done to help my situation. It feels like everyone is against me. Nothing works out for me. I can’t trust anyone or anything. I am alone.
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Henri Nouwen says in his book Spiritual Formation,
“When hot anger grows cold it hardens your heart and wreaks havoc in your life. Resentment makes you suspicious, cynical and depressed. Over the long term, resentment becomes a way of being. It prevents us from seeking forgiveness and robs us of our joy …[it] makes us cling to negative feelings as our only way to find an identity. We then become what we are against and regress to the small satisfaction of unexpressed anger.”
What can we do?
Own your stuff.
Speak your truth.
To release yourself from the prison of resentment you must own your own stuff. We want so badly to blame others so that we can avoid our own issues and pain. The reality is that we cannot change anyone else (as much as we may want to). The only person you can change is you. If we can be honest about our part, our struggles, our limitations our own wounds and personal reasons why we were triggered into feeling offense, then we can feel our way through the pain. We can more easily forgive ourselves and others.
We can choose to speak our truth. Stop beating around the bush, pretending everything is okay, saving someone’s feelings while sacrificing your truth. We don’t have to be mean or rude. Speak the truth in love. This pacifies and releases us from our ANGER. It is uncomfortable, no doubt! But it will be uncomfortable either way. Choice number one is a short-term confrontation and truth-telling that is like ripping a bandaid off that, done in love, can redeem and even build up a relationship. Choice number two is a long-term deceiving yourself and others that may save us from momentary pain, but fuels a slow cooking persistent pain that can last for years and destroys relationships… your choice.
Finally, we can practice gratitude. We can train our brain to look for the beauty, the good, the bridge that connects us instead of focusing on the chasm that separates us. It is awfully hard to stay in resentment when we are thinking about and declaring what is good and beautiful.
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What resentment have you been holding onto?
What would it look like to speak your truth in love?