Google defines resentment as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” Ouch. Anyone who has an interest in reducing human suffering has an interest in reducing resentment. Resentment ravages the vessel that contains it, much like mold, corrosion, or cancer. Resentment is a disease of the way we think, and so many ideas have been proposed to cure it. For example, understanding why people are the way they are and why they treat us the way they do (compassion), can help alleviate resentment. As can recognizing that we only harm ourselves by holding on to it. While resentment compounds wounds, it often does no damage to the offender to whom it is directed. And most would agree that revenge motivated by resentment is not a healthy solution in any case.
Without the feeling of having been wronged, there is no resentment. However, people wrong others all the time. Let us assume the resentful is correct in their assessment that others have wronged them. What, then, can be done?
Taking Inventory of My Secret Sins
People may look down on others because of how they look, how they talk, where they come from, how much money they have, or whom they associate with. Indeed, this unjust treatment is responsible for much of the resentment people experience in this life. An approach that has helped me heal resentment is to take inventory, not of the times people have wronged me, but of the times people — most often due to ignorance — have never held me accountable for who I am. In other words, the times that I “got away with it” — at least in the minds of others.
Our lust, our envy, our greed, our gossip, our petty insecurities, and so on. The knowledge people have about our sins and defects is typically surface-level. Reality is that if people knew the full truth about us, they would think less of us, and treat us accordingly.
Remembering our secret sins and private reality can be fresh air to the resentful who seeks healing, because it can help them recognize that they are not just victims but also aggressors who have not fully been held accountable for who they are. Whenever we mess up or relapse, a strengthening of this conviction — that we are flawed people who routinely experience grace — can be a silver lining. To be sure, this isn’t about self-deprecation or self-abasement but rather an honest assessment of our character. There is a real sense in which we are all worse than what people think.
In the parable Jesus told of an unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus chided the man for forgetting the great debt he was forgiven by the king while ruthlessly demanding justice of people who owed him much less. So it is with God. God sees our secret sins and private character, and chooses to look the other way. Yet we often overlook this fact in our interactions with others.
In sum, meditating on the grace we routinely experience empowers our ability to forgive others and is an unsung remedy for resentment.
For more on the topic, see 7 Reasons Why I Should Forgive Others Today.