The Sin of Resentment
Sometimes it is easy to focus on our big sins, rather than see the small ones that fuel the bigger ones. For instance, let’s take resentment. Many of us are probably not aware of our resentments. Resentment are like computer viruses running on our spiritual system causing us difficulties, memory problems and slowing us down in our walk with God. I remember after hearing a homily about anger and bitter, I merrily thought to myself, well I am a glad I don’t have to worry about that. I pretty much love everybody and it’s not like I am angry at anyone. Well, it was within 24 hours that I was eating these bitter words. I saw more clearly how I was holding onto grudges left and right towards those closest to me. Yes, my family. I realized that I saw them through a grid, a tainted glass where I magnified their flaws and minimized my own. All this was based on an “accurate accounting” of the history I had with them. It was if I could not let go “of the accounting of wrong.” It’s as if, I somehow gain something by keeping the list. Because of this, I didn’t expect anything different behavior from them.
Fredricka Matthewes-Green in her book, The Illumined Heart, talks about how interesting it is that we always see ourselves as wearing the “white hat” in the western of this life. We never see ourselves wearing the black hat and being the bad guy. Why is this? This no doubt is a result of the fall and the darkening our minds. Perhaps, seeing where I am wrong is the beginning of repentance. Fr. Michael and I were discussing a movie about the War of 1812 and how the movie told from Britain’s perspective. When it was remade it was from the American point of view. How funny it is. I never really occurred to me to think of a war movie from a point of view other than an American one. How interesting it is to shift our paradigm. I need to see things from other people’s points of view and to see where I was wrong and to not immediately see how they were wrong. What helps to break through resentment is to understand that everyone has a story, some history that got them here in the present and that Christ is healing them as well. My resentment and judgment is in essence a lack of faith that God is working in them.
Perhaps my family is changing their behaviors and growing in Christ, but my resentments prevent me from seeing it or acknowledging it. I was only looking for how they were “the same as they always have been” rather than how they had grown or changed. Resentment leads to other problems as well.
Resentment leads to burn out and a lack of energy. Researchers have looked at the factors that led to burnout and found that resentment was the number one factor. Perfectionism and over-working were lower on the list. Think about the times you were doing too much and when you felt unappreciated or held a grudge or didn’t feel like life was fair. You were probably tired, fatigued and beginning to slow down overall. It is like that resentment virus on our hard drive or our workload. Sure, it still runs, but not very well. If the sin of resentment were more obvious, we would take it off our lives immediately. Without resentment, we may be very busy, but cheerful and working hard and actually feel God’s grace carry us along. It is in these times, we feel grateful to be alive and feel the vitality and the energy to contribute to life.
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Cor. 9:6-8)
What are some steps we can take to be free from resentment? First, we have to be aware that we have it. Secondly, we have to be willing to let it go. Resentment is sticky and seems to want to bind itself to us saying that we are justified in our doing so. Justified or not, resentment will kill us. What can motivate us to let it go is to realize how spiritually destructive this is. It blinds us to our own faults so that we don’t repent of our own sins while holding onto the sins of others. Thirdly, sometimes to let go of resentment requires a humbling conversion. It should be humbling for both parties. We need to ask God for guidance and the right words in a spirit of humility and have a conversation with the other person to share how we were hurt or whatever, so that we can be reconciled. Fourthly, we need to confess our resentment to God as a sin and asking him to help us have a change of heart. We can also pray for the people we have resentments against. Praying for the person, whether we want to or not is the quickest way out of this mess. Satan can not stand this tactic, for now we are actually doing the most loving and thoughtful thing we could do, which is building a relationship with that other person through prayer. Christ, himself, who could have justified resentments toward towards the whole human race, in his love for us refused to do so and continues to pour out his love towards us