Posts Tagged ‘resentment’

There is no redeeming value to resentment. From hate to exasperation to wrath, there’s not a synonym in the group that I should want to practice. And yet. . .

But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient . . . [2 Timothy 2:23-24, NKJV] In the NIV in verse 24 says, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

I have discovered that resentment is right up there with disappointment. They have the same root in the heart. They are both married to expectations and ultimately “control.” I am resentful when things don’t go the way I expect them to go. I am disappointed when things don’t turn out the way I had dreamed they would. As though I know what is the best way, the best time, the best outcome.

There is nothing wrong, I think, in dreaming and hoping for a particular end result or a good conclusion, but the trick is integrating the reality that does not line up with the dream.

We all want perfect children with straight “A’s” and exquisite manners. We can model these behaviors and teach and tutor and guide. But guess what? Things don’t always work out. And if that child/spouse/friend/colleague does not perform accordingly, what is our response? Resentment or patient love?

Patience is love. And love is patience. [Love is patient, love is kind. I Corinthians 13:4]

I can remember other believers warning me (jokingly – sort of) never to pray for patience for God will allow all kinds of challenging events to come along to “try” this patience, to grow patience, to practice patience. But never did I think about patience as love itself. Of course, we should ask for/pray for/practice patience in the same way we ask to love, to forgive, to be compassionate etc.

In the last year or so, I have been indulging a boatload of resentment for my circumstances. I live in a small house and have very little personal space. My adult daughter and her 21 month old son live with me. They dominate the environment. I love my family, of course, I say, but I also resent their habits, their noise, their choices, their impacts. So, is that love?

Resentment is a nice word for hate. And that is unacceptable. Ever. Lord forgive me.

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dream and forgivenessIt’s not like Joseph had one God dream after another. He had a couple of foretelling dreams as a teen and no other dreams of his are shared through his time in Egypt. Instead, he turned to dream interpretation, but again, only a few. He known for being an honorable man, but not necessarily a diviner. Yet, God used him in this way at a point of need.

[Joseph said:] And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt . . . Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” . . .  Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  [Genesis 41:33, 39-40, 46a; NIV]

After twelve years of servitude, Joseph is raised up to one of the highest positions in that world, second only to Pharaoh at the age of thirty, all because of a dream, an interpretation, a vision, and twelve years of leading in lower positions. Every year of his captivity was actually a year of practice and preparation for the big leap. He had no way of knowing that such a day would come.

What we don’t see is any record of built up resentments toward his half-brothers. The only hint that memories cause him pain comes in the naming of his sons: Manasseh (which appears to mean “forget” and Joseph writes that his son has been born to help him forget his father’s household) and Ephraim (which seems to mean “twice fruitful,” and Joseph writes that this birth symbolizes a new life of fruitfulness in the place of suffering). Suffering? Interesting.

By the time the brothers finally come from Canaan to ask Egypt for grain, Joseph has been away at least twenty years. He has a new name, a new life, and his own family. And yet, the moment of reckoning arrives–the moment of payback, the moment when he could, at a word, destroy all ten of his brothers for their betrayal. During this first visit, he is tempted but there is also his integrity fighting against it.

Resentments build fast in my world. I know it. I see it. I feel it. People will say, “oh, I forgave, but I will never forget.” I think it was my old friend, Mma Precious Ramotswe, from the mystery series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, who said (more or less), “If we don’t choose to forget as well, the memory may very well erase the forgiveness.”

I can choose drama or I can choose dream. I can choose to forgive and forget. I can allow God’s dream to build a life or I can fight the way. I can complain of the time and the disappointments or I can trust in the preparation.

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Art by Luba Lukova

Art by Luba Lukova

Rachel and Leah, coming from a culture in which the role of women was clearly defined, needed children to show their worth. It was their children that gave them place in their small world. And yet, Leah wanted that one other thing, that intangible thing called love.

Genesis 30:19-20
Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.”

Leah’s resources were few: she was not the beauty like her sister, she was the oldest and she was married by her father’s trickery. She was, if anything, an embarrassment. She had already born four sons and still, her husband favored Rachel. How could that be? Rachel was barren and yet Jacob loved her.

When Leah’s womb stopped bearing children, she must have been devastated. More than likely, Jacob limited his time wither her sexually as well. She had been more of a production machine. He appreciated the growth in his family and community, no doubt, but not for love. Even when the sisters gave him their maidservants, these arrangements were all about fruitfulness, not love. Jacob had been entranced by Rachel from the beginning. He was fixed on her and nothing Leah could do to change that. And yet she kept trying.

Leah is like so many young women today who mold themselves by the reflection they see in the eyes of men. Women often go to great extremes to create a picture of beauty they imagine men want to see. They craft their public personas to be appealing. They read magazines and books, take surveys and spend great amounts of money on surface improvements, to attract the male. Women do all they can to appear younger as long as possible since society has nurtured the idea that older women are no longer sexy or appealing. In the eyes of many men, women have two stages: young and seductive or motherly and caregiving.

How often are marriages destroyed by a man’s lust for someone younger, suppler, and carefree?

But I say only this. We cannot make any of them love us.

God commands us to love unconditionally. There is no promise of reciprocity. There is no promise of reward.

Some claim that it is most difficult to love our enemies. But I say, it is most difficult to love someone who has stopped loving us.

In this place, resentments are always at the edges of every conversation; disappointment waves like a flag for attention; togetherness feels like aloneness.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. [I Corinthians 13:4-8a]

God loved me in this way. God loved me before I loved back. God would not “make me” love. God loved. And over time, consistency and faithfulness won. Only, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, can I love in this way. Only the Christ within can love like that.

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Painting by Titian, 16 Cent.

I’m pretty sure everything started out fairly normal for the brothers, Cain and Abel. Raised by the same parents, they got the same instruction, the same opportunities, the same attention; much like most siblings of today. So, what went wrong? And why is it a warning for me?

Jude 1:10-11a
Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain . . .

Things must have started going downhill long before the big moment in Genesis 4:3-5, when both boys brought an offering to God, Cain (the eldest) from his farm produce and Abel from his herds. The produce offering was rejected while the animal offering was accepted. Cain thought his offering was fine, the way to go. Maybe it didn’t occur to him to find out what would be better, or that something “could” be better. Maybe Abel just lucked out when he brought a blood sacrifice. We’ll never know.

But what we do know is that the Cain/Abel dynamic was already in place and Cain, instead of changing up to another offering or trying another way, resented his brother’s good fortune. I doubt he took any time at all to analyze his situation or consider some alternatives. He “went with his gut” and confronted his brother. Sometimes, I think people assume that Abel was Mr. Goody-2-Shoes and had the inside track on offering styles of the day. But, what if Abel was doing a little victory dance in the end zone? I’m just sayin.’

But here’s the point. I must be more cautionary in my actions, more circumspect. I may “think” I know what is going on, but then again, I may not. How easy it is to over-react. The “Way of Cain” is thoughtless, emotional, and brash. Cain’s way burns bridges and changes lives forever. Even if there is forgiveness for Cain, the damage is done.

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Grace is everything. If I could only grasp the full power of grace every day, nothing could cause lasting harm. Grace diffuses anger, despair, disappointments and resentments which all fuel bitterness. And bitterness hurts everyone.

Hebrews 12:15
Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it.

For some years I worked with the Elijah House ministries; I read many of the John and Paula Sandford books, I participated in the Basic School which taught the essentials of prayer for healing and how to recognize and address bitter root judgments. I met with my own counselor for several years.

So many early bitter roots are like persistent weeds in the garden that grow very deeply in the soil. They cannot be merely cut at ground level, they must be pulled out, otherwise, they will tend to grow back, sometimes larger, stronger, and even deeper than before.

Hurtful instances in our past act in the same way and can derail a life. My own life was on a treadmill of resentments about situations that were mostly outside my direct control: my father’s alcoholism and death when I was a child, my mother’s mental illness, our relative poverty, my brilliant brother, just to name a few. I had an internal tirade always playing in my head: why these parents, why this family, why this city, why this school, why this husband, and why this body. And the follow up to “why” became “if only” — if only I had more money, if only I had a different family, etc. The litany was endless. And each verse dug my roots in deeper and deeper.

When I began the healing process of allowing the Spirit to weed my garden heart, I thought I would explode into a million pieces. I had held on to those issues for so long that I didn’t know who I would be without them.

Although I was able to release many of my old hurts and habits, I recognize now that a life picks up other hurts along the way. Not all bitter roots come from childhood or even teen years, they can find yummy soil ten years ago or five or even yesterday. How deeply they are planted and how much I water my bitter roots will determine how easily they can be removed.

This is where grace comes in, through the love and power of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Messiah, and the intention of God to make all things well.

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I learned the enduring power of the sowing and reaping principle through Elijah House. But now I see there is an added piece to it: motive. Why I sow “whatever” makes a difference in the yield.

II Corinthians 9:6-7
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man [or woman] should give what he [she] has decided in his [her] heart to give not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [sower].

Sowing is everywhere. It’s in the money I give, it’s in the words I say, it’s in the quality of my touch, it’s in my work and more. Reaping comes automatically, in one form or another and on its own timetable. And, significantly, reaping comes in multiples of a third, two-thirds or even 100% more than the original sowing [Mark 4:20]. Could it be that these multiples are determined by motive? How did I sow?

I think too many people think that “following the rules” is enough. And to some degree that is true. The doing of good works is good. But is it enough to do if it’s with an attitude of bitterness or unbelief? I am encouraged to give of our family’s plenty and tithe, let’s say, but if I give with a hard heart, I now think it nullifies the true effect of the gift. The return is stunted.

A dear friend told me this principle applies in the smallest of gestures, even cooking. She said I should never cook a meal in anger or resentment, for the meal itself will lose its flavor. It will still be food and nourish the body but it will not reap any other blessings.

This is the main reason Christ tells us to do everything in love. It is love that provides the “salt” to every gesture, to every word, to every intent.

Teach me to plant today with the humus of love.

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I’m not doing too well with this idea of abstaining from something . . . anything . . . just because it’s a problem for someone else. And yet, if I hold true to the concept of the “sacred other,” can I choose to do anything else?

I Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

Sometimes, these choices are a cakewalk. Obviously, if I have friends who struggle with alcoholism, I would not guzzle around them. That’s insensitive. But then, the cost to me for not drinking in their presence is minimal. But what about other things? What about movies or books that cause my conservative friends to stumble? What about eating meat around my vegetarian/vegan friends? What about wearing dresses instead of pants around traditional Mennonites or Amish?

There are such fine lines between being true to oneself, being a chameleon for the sake of fitting in, and choosing to abstain out of concern for the other.

I believe my previous “unconsciousness” in these choices were the ultimate problem. I might abstain but I did not do it out of love, but with resentment and even negative judgments.

It’s a type of reluctant obedience that is no better than just going ahead and doing it.

And yet, Jesus stretched a lot of observers to places they did not want to go. He ate without ritual washing, he allowed sinners to touch him, he healed and touched contagious disease. He broke Jewish laws with knowledge but also with kindness.

It all comes back to love and motive. Abstaining for the sake of another should be conscious and intentional. And probably, that act should be accompanied by conversation.

Keep me mindful today Lord.

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