The Acid of Resentment

Resentment is a feeling that should be avoided at all costs.

This feeling can worm its way into our hearts in several different ways. We could begin to feel resentment towards someone because of they treat us with seaming disrespect. Or we could begin to resent someone because of they are taller, stronger, more popular, smarter, or more successful than we are. We could even resent someone because of their virtues. If I am someone who struggles with anger, I could resent someone who has a natural calm that I lack.

We can see in the Bible how resentment can eat away at a person. In Genesis, Cain and Abel offer up sacrifices to God. But because Abel gives the best of his possessions to God, He prefers this offering over Cain’s. As a result, God says to Cain “sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7).

Notice the imagery that God uses: sin waits outside of the person and must be invited into the soul. Cain ignores this advice and lets his resentment overtake him. Instead of having a heart filled with brotherly love, he becomes filled with murderous rage.

This is because resentment acts like an acid that erodes the goodness and truth in a person’s heart. In the story of Joseph the Dreamer, his brothers became filled with jealousy over how he was Jacob’s favorite. Instead of seeing him as their brother, resentment ate away at that image in their hearts.

One of the things that is so pernicious about resentment is how it can creep up on you. It can begin with little annoyances. Perhaps your spouse forgets to put away the milk. But as it continues, we can begin to read into these small acts: “They must expect me to do all of their cleaning for them like I’m their personal maid!”

Notice what has happened here: we take an act that annoys us and we infer a bad motive. Now to be sure, that inference is not always wrong. We are all fallen human beings and our vices touch all parts of our lives. But the inference may not always be correct. Maybe your spouse leaves the milk out because they think that you want to use it next.

If resentment festers, it can affect the way we look at the people in our lives. Our affections for them can be eaten away by these resentments until we are filled with bitterness.

How do we avoid this?

There are two main ways to do this:

The first is to embrace humility. St. Paul writes, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Here, the Apostle reminds us that we are in need of forgiveness, which Christ gives us. If I remember that I am a blameless saint, that I have faults that others could resent, then I am forced to confront my own vice. In that light, I should be patient with others.

St. Paul also writes in “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Perhaps I am upset that my spouse never asks me about my day. This can be very hurtful. But do I take a moment and think “Do I ask my spouse about their day?” Or “Maybe my spouse has difficulty showing affection in words, but they show it by working hard for the family or by doing the chores no one wants to do.”

Thinking this way can help diffuse a great deal of resentment.

The second method is conversation.

It is highly recommended that you begin with humility. But sometimes these issues still persist. If someone is doing something that is affecting you badly, it may be healthy to have an honest conversation with them about it. This can be difficult, but as long as everything is said in patience and love, you can address the behavior in a way that prevents the resentment from growing.

We do this because we want to be Christ-like. Jesus does not resent us. Despite all of our flaws, He loves us and wants to be with us for all eternity. Because He looks at us without resentment He sees the best in us.

And we have to do that for each other.

Copyright 2023, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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