RESENTMENT AND BITTERNESS
Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen I was so foolish and ignorant. I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Psalms 73:21, 22
In the same way as when we worry, when we harbor resentment or bitterness, we mentally stay focused on a negative feeling. We can resent someone because they treated us badly or because they received something we wanted. Resentment and bitterness come from a flawed way of thinking. The only reason anyone would feel bitter because someone gained something they wanted, would be if they somehow believed that there was not enough to go around. Many people believe that God has a great big pie, which he has carefully sliced into pieces based upon each person’s worth. As each person’s piece is given out, they assume the pie gets smaller and there is less to go around. If the person sitting next to you gets a raise or a promotion or an award, that means you can’t get it because it has been doled out and it no longer exists. This may be a true earthly concept but it is an untrue heavenly principle. Your Father is King of the universe. He can make a job or a promotion out of nothing. Everything God has done for anyone else, he can do for you too. That means when you see others achieve, you should be excited and happy, because you know you can have it too. God is willing and able to give you the desires of your heart.
Often bitterness takes root because of our inability or unwillingness to forgive people who have offended us. Some people are much more easily offended than other people. I was this way and I know of many people who are this way today. I know for me, this inability to forgive came from my low self-esteem. Because I felt bad about myself already, it was easy for me to believe that other people did not like or respect me. In fact, it was my automatic first thought. I was often over-sensitive to ambiguous statements or actions. I analyzed the motive behind why a person said or did something generally concluding that they were doing it to me intentionally to hurt me. Most of the time, people were not even thinking about me. They were just going about their business living their lives, being who they are, acting like they act and my wrong thinking twisted their innocent words or actions into something sinister. I analyzed everything to the minutia detail. I expected people to treat me badly because I had been treated badly in the past. I interpreted everything as a personal attack on me. Perhaps there were times when people were generally rude or cruel but now when I look back, most of the time it was my thinking that was wrong. There are always two ways to view a situation. Don’t take everything personally. The longer you dwell on your hurt or injustice, the more it festers like a wound and becomes infected. When a wound is infected it affects the whole body.
There was a woman I worked with one time. We were peers in a large organization but she was moved to her position temporarily while decisions were being made regarding her organization. She was not temporarily promoted but was given the added leadership and supervisory responsibilities of the position without comparable pay. She was amazing and proved herself quite well. She had to work budget issues, appraisal and disciplinary issues of staff plus continue with her previous responsibilities. During this period her leaders were looking for a leadership position to put her in because she was doing so well. Also, during this time, the woman began to resent not getting paid to do these extra things and started to complain about it. When the decision was made to downsize her organization, she was moved back to a position with less responsibility. She became angry and over time her bitterness and resentment grew. The wonderful reputation she had as a leader was replaced by her angry disposition, and no one wanted to promote her after that. Her bitterness and resentment changed her into a difficult employee. If she just would have realized that God’s pie is unlimited, I am certain she would be one of our key leaders today.
Balm for Your Wounds
The cure for bitterness and resentment is forgiveness. Many people say that they can’t forgive. But this can’t be true. Jesus commands us to forgive and I know that he would not require us to do something that we were unable to do. We get to the point of forgiveness by deeply and truly examining our own sins. When we realize what Jesus did for us and how our sins were laid upon him, what other people do to us does not seem like that much. But, we have to really look at ourselves and remove the board in our own eye before we deal with the splinter in our brother’s eye.
You are a sinner. Your sin is no better or worse than your brothers. Your sin is sin. God does not give levels to sin; people do that. God calls sin, sin. I’ve often been taken back by how people become extremely judgmental about some sins yet discount other sins. Generally, they judge the sin of someone else and view their own sin as “not that bad.” I’ve heard people say, “at least I’ve never killed anyone.” I’ve seen people sever friendships because they would learn of a friend’s big sin and discounting their own behavior as a small sin. Sin is sin to God and scripture says we’ve all sinned. God even says our “good” works are as “filthy rags.” So even if you think you do more good that bad, you are still a sinner in God’s eyes.
Your sin isn’t less than the person who offended you. You are not off the hook anymore than they are. In fact, scripture says that if you do not forgive your brother from your heart, your heavenly father will not forgive you of your sins. Holding on to bitterness and resentment is a sin too. Additionally, it keeps us focused on negativity and therefore draws more negativity to us. There are even documented cases of people manifesting physical ailments due to anger, bitterness and resentment. Let go of your hurts and forgive other people. Expect the best of others and you will generally find it. Give people the benefit of the doubt.