WHEN ANGER TURNS UPWARD
It was an already-packed Saturday. I had a couple coming in for counseling, and I needed to attend a birthday party, was behind on my sermon preparation for Sunday, and was scheduled to do a funeral service, all on the same day. If there were no glitches, I would have just enough time to cover all my bases. Everything seemed to be running smoothly at first. The couple left early, so I had a few extra minutes to prepare for the funeral service. From my window, I could see cars pulling up, so I went outside to meet the funeral party. With greetings exchanged, I escorted them back into our Fireside Room to go over the details of the service. I had half the party in one room, but the other half was somewhere else. I couldn’t seem to get everyone together, so I pulled one of the pallbearers aside and asked him what the matter was. Apparently, there was a family squabble between two brothers, and they didn’t want to be in the same room together.
Since we were already running late, I pulled one brother into the room and asked about the problem. He admitted that there had been a falling out between him and his brother some forty years ago. He couldn’t remember what the cause was, but both brothers had managed to harbor their resentment against each other for all those many years. Not even their mother’s death could pry apart the intense loathing.
This was nothing new to me. Whether officiating weddings or funerals, I find that there’s usually some relative there who is angry with another relative. You might be surprised to know how many families will carry on a long-standing feud like this one, unwilling to mend fences and bury old grievances. Siblings, parents, ex-spouses, children—the list is endless.
Families, supposed safe havens for us, are often smoldering cauldrons of resentment and all that goes along with it. Deep-seated childhood envy is twisted into childish hostility. A simple family celebration can keep psychiatrists busy for months. Add to this the dynamics with in-laws and ex-spouses, and fallout from these times is a therapist’s windfall.
Resentment seems to be multiplying and gaining a strong foothold worldwide, and not just among family members. If you search the Internet for “resentment,” you’ll find a wide variety of reasons why people are angry, envious, spiteful, or simply filled with the culmination of this disease: hatred.
Through years of pastoral counseling, I can attest that, if left unchecked, resentment is a powerful, deadly force. Just ask its victims. It is a cancer that destroys everything it touches. In seconds it can kill a deep relationship that has taken years or even decades to develop. It dissipates love, joy, and hope. It neutralizes marriages, churches, small businesses, large corporations, political parties, and governments. When it comes to Christian faith, it can eat up trust and confidence in God faster than a flesh-eating virus can dissolve the tissues of a human body.
Resentment can harm or delude you without your even knowing it. It clouds your reasoning, keeps you from recognizing the truth, and makes you incapable of seeing someone else’s point of view. Bottom line: it hurts you more than the person you’re resenting! And when you’re resentful of someone, you can mistake your strong, heated feelings for logic. It’s like trying to reason with a drunk person. You’d have to be just as drunk as that person to understand his or her logic.
Resentment, the great deluder, is often based upon a delusion of grandeur. The person harboring the resentment gets a false sense of power. In reality, this is just a short-lived burst of adrenaline. It is very similar to other addictions. You get charged up. You feel alive and good and then you need more.
Just one more drink, one more smoke, one more X-rated film, one more pulse-raising fight. When those effects wear off, you’re left in a far worse condition with lower self-worth, less self-control, and more self-doubt.
In a real sense, when you resent people, you put them in charge of your life. You end up the loser. Actress and novelist Carrie Fisher wrote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”1
Excerpt from Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame by John I Snyder
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