Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions. (Airing daily on Hope 103.2 and Inspire Digital at 9am)
I like the story of a preacher who walked 50 miles to see the American President George Washington. He wanted to plead with the president to spare a young man’s life. He had been sentenced to death for failing his duty in the war. There was to be no forgiveness.
George Washington listened to the impassioned plea of the clergyman but said: “I’m sorry, but I cannot grant the request for your friend’s pardon”. And then the preacher said: “But you don’t understand sir. He’s not my friend. For some reason, he has made himself my greatest enemy.” In a startled moment, the great George Washington replied: “Surely you’re not pleading for your enemy?” “Yes, I am”. So Washington granted the pardon and set the young soldier free.
Yes, it’s an old story and somewhat unusual. But what a tremendous truth here. What is the point of hanging onto an ongoing resentment towards someone, even if they have harmed you? I have known people like that who have a smouldering resentment, that does not let up. They will never forgive a particular person who hurt them, knowingly or unknowingly.
Resentment is most painful when it is felt toward a person you’re close to, such as a parent, good friend, or spouse. If you don’t overcome feelings of powerlessness, you might develop a cynical, hostile attitude. Sometimes in a family, there is a burning resentment because one member was favoured against another. When the parents die, one child gets more money left to them. That can be a source of resentment that eats away like a cancer.
Don’t Let Resentment Control You
An anonymous person wrote this:
The moment you start to resent a person, you become his slave. He controls your dreams, absorbs your digestion, robs you of your peace of mind and goodwill, and takes away the pleasure of your work. He ruins your religion and nullifies your prayers. You cannot take a vacation without his going along. He destroys your freedom of mind and hounds you wherever you go. There is no way to escape the person you resent. He is with you when you are awake. He invades your privacy when you sleep. He is close beside you when you drive your car and when you are on the job. You can never have efficiency or happiness. He influences even the tone of your voice. He requires you to take medicine for indigestion, headaches, and loss of energy. He even steals your last moment of consciousness before you go to sleep. So, if you want to be a slave, harbour your resentments!
Why be a slave and ruin your life? A fair enough question. An unusual definition is: Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other people to die. Think about it—it’s true and accurate.
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Resentments are negative feelings that you may have been carrying around for years. During this time, they may have done significant damage to your ability to interact with the world. I know it sounds dramatic, but these are often big deep-seated issues. Don’t expect to solve the issues in a few days. It will be a painful journey.
It’s a fact that resentments never resolve themselves. Sometimes I am not even aware I am resentful. Joyce Meyer once said, “If you’re not certain if you have resentment, imagine the person who hurt you, walking towards you. Would you want to cross over on the other side of the street?”
It’s Never Too Late to Forgive
The good news is, no matter how long we have harboured bitterness, it’s never too late to forgive. Sometimes we have to step back and not allow our emotions to rule our lives. A Bible teacher said to his students in class, “Don’t let your emotions drive your train. They will always derail you.”
Do you have a desire to lash back, to retaliate?
But God doesn’t give us permission to harm anyone, either with words or actions. We read in Leviticus 19:18 (NLT), “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Letting go of resentment is something we need to do for our peace of mind and to improve our relationship with God. We can’t afford to get stuck blaming others for our unhappiness. Even when others have done wrong, we’re called upon to examine our hearts and to respond to others in love.
Extend peace to that other person with whom you have a problem. You don’t have to do this out aloud, but you do have to do it in your heart.
If that seems impossible, pray Psalm 29:11 with a twist: Lord give strength to this person who hurt me. Lord bless this person with peace. You can’t go wrong praying for the good of others!