Unforgiveness, Resentment and Wrath.
THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF, AND REMEDY FOR UNFORGIVENESS, RESENTMENT, AND BITTERNESS
This an informal study and description, based upon my own experience and examined in the light of the Word of God. The characteristics described here are primarily of those whose resentment flows out of rejection. It is my prayer that it will be helpful in discerning and overcoming this sin and destructive condition.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prv. 4:23).
"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness (harbored sin) springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled (Heb. 12:15).
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:22, 23).
Prov. 18:14: The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
Prov. 18:19: A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
The above warnings or descriptions seem to all apply, to varying degrees, to a condition that all too frequently is seen within the church, that of harboring hurt and resentment. Though the above texts can describe some that are without the faith, or (in the case of the first 3) one that will leave the faith, as there are degrees of this it also is applicable to some that struggle in the faith all their Christian lives. Within the church, it's fruit is manifested in both personal conflicts, as well as splits within the entire body. All and all, it is contrary to the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude v.3). In every church, there are those around who we must “walk on eggshells, and who are not simply easily wounded (as some are who have been hurt, but do not willingly hold malice), but who nurse wounds, and harbor resentment. And who by passive and active ways, and to varying degrees, seek retaliation and satisfaction for their personal injustices. If we find ourselves being easily offended, harboring grudges, or retaliating for personal hurts, we are in critical need of repentance and deliverance from this destructive condition. And this condition is applicable to both genders, male and female, despite my use of the former in describing the condition below.
The Beginning: the Sowing of the Root
The beginning of this wounded spirit, and root of bitterness, comes through an initial offense, or series1 of injustices done to a person. This could be a real or perceived2 sin of commission, bodily hurt, theft, and or deliberate hurt to one feelings, or ego. And or it may be that of omission, a real or perceived lack of love, nurture and care.
It may begin simply as a “wounded Spirit,” and never fully develop into the more severe condition. Nevertheless, it will still tend to manifest many of the things described below, especially that of withdrawal from people (when hurt), inordinate suspicion of others, unwarranted distrust of all authority, and a tendency to believe certain souls who, themselves harboring resentment, foster rebellion against legitimate authority, who make merchandise of the faults of the latter, not because they actually and unselfishly are zealous for the holiness of God, but because they seek vengeance by selfishly establishing their own following. A fine line sometimes exists between rebels and reformers in the words.
The offended soul who will develop a "root of bitterness," is the one who takes this injustice ("unfairness") to heart, and harbors and nursing it, and seeks both to protest this injustice and to obtain satisfaction (justice), for his wounds.
Both the protest and the vengeance aspects can be manifest by both passive and active means.
The seeking of "justice" may be done first by the very holding (harboring) of the offense done, the refusal to let it go. By so doing he is effectively "pressing charges," having filed a "grievance" against the person (s) that hurt him. This is his way of obtaining some satisfaction for the injustice done against him.
In protesting the injustice and in retaliation, one may refuse to do certain things that are expected of him, such as (but not necessarily all) being anti-social, slothfulness, being slovenly, etc., or a refusal to keep time schedules. Though there can be other reasons for such, and one may even do the opposite "in spite,” yet one or more (especially the first) are usually a continuing mark of one who is carrying a grievance. Those with a more manageable form of resentment may sometimes be otherwise useful and industrious persons, but will be found seeking to use such in order to punish (or control) those whom they personally hold grievance against.
In more active manifestations the offended person will react to continued real or perceived offenses by protesting his hurt by verbal and even physical means – the degree of which is relative to the severity of his condition, or individual temperament – with words that angrily express the hurt(s) done to him (hurts which he nurtures in memory), and or by hitting inanimate objects.
In more advanced stages he may attack people, and may engage not only in defensive retaliation (protestations), but may pro-actively seek to hurt others in a vengeful way (according to his means and as circumstances allow), and to hurt not simply the person who did the offense, but others. Obviously this is a more dangerous stage.
The typical basic condition of such a person carrying an offense is that they will be touchy, "thin-skinned," and provoked to personal anger (at least in heart if not in actions), when experiencing a personal offense something similar to that they carry a grievance against.
Often they will tend to engage in self-pity, complain that no one loves them, and over-react to being slighted. Yet by such reactions and body language, they cause most others to be wary of them (lest they offend him and suffer the consequences), and so the one holding a grievance works to confirms his own charges
Their relationship with the Lord will typically lack dept and maturity, and generally they can never be satisfied, and have a general discontentment, against which they protest. Some whoever, do grow in the faith a good deal but find themselves in conflicts which are not actually because of the faith but because of a deep seated resentment, which they struggle with, but do not want to face.
In many cases, the manifestations of the grievance they are carrying usually remains latent, with many and even long periods between "protests," only to be brought out when provoked. Others make it consistently obvious that they are angry towards some personal injustice done to them.3
Their expressions of anger may be linked with causes that are worthy of legitimate anger, things which are objectively evil. But their protests against such are defiled by their personal vendetta, by which they are driven to go beyond just anger and resolution. Yet often they have a basic resentment against all authority, except that which plays off their resentment.
Such deep resentment robs them of true happiness and spiritual liberty, or hinders it. Though they may know of the way of victory and intellectually repent of sin and believe they have forgiven all others, yet they refuse to allow their heart to discover itself and confront it, and in repentance let it go deep inside where the bitterness has it's root. This may be because of the discomfort involved, but it is usually (also) because the desire for justice is so strong, though seldom it is consciously acknowledged. Satisfaction for their wounds must be exacted, therefore we refuse to "drop the charges,"4 lest we let the persons who hurt them go free (i know).
How can a Christian hold or continue to hold unforgiveness and resentment? You would think, in the light of the grace given in Christ, and the MANY explicit warnings given by the Lord against NOT forgiving ("from the heart"), that we would be quick and thorough in forgiving all. But as "the carnal mind" "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7), so to the degree that we are carnally-minded, then we are reluctant to forgive completely, as in reality we seek vengeance for our wounds. It can also be because we are spiritually immature, and are ignorant of what is in our heart in this regard.
In addition, though carrying a grudge hinders joy, there is a certain satisfaction in carrying a grudge in order to exact justice. And for some, nursing a wound also often allows the offended person to use such as an excuse to avoid obedience to God which he finds unpleasant and for self-indulgence.. He can justify such because of his self-perceived "victim status" for which he thinks he deserves special treatment. Others, as mentioned before, may do somewhat the opposite in a more subtle and dangerous form of seeking vengeance.
Though one may know the way of holiness and freedom, and rejoice in our free justification and acceptance with God by faith (on Christ's expense), and initially have no malice toward anyone, such faith in Christ as Savior will call us to obey Christ as Lord. And to the degree that we do not want to follow the Lord, as walking in the Spirit requires much long-suffering, perseverance, self-denial, and overall death to self, then we will draw back into the "broad road" of our fleshly mind and ways (backsliding can be by degrees). In so doing we will fall back not only into fleshly actions, but can also fall from grace into dwelling on rejection, hurts, and thus will become less content in Christ and more resentful and bitter.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23).
Therefore continued true joy and victory requires believing the Word of God, faithful examination of heart, repentance and confession of sin, and the putting on of the whole armor of God. And with renewed consecration in faith to follow Christ, rejoicing in Him, obeying His Word, by yielding to His Spirit in prayerful dependence.
The Only Remedy for the condition of harbored resentment begins at the cross and ends with the resurrected life.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2Cor. 5:17). For those who (allow themselves) to believe such, the past with all it's sins and hurts need have no hold on them. Having been not only freely forgiven (on God/Christ's great expense) an enormous and ultimately horrendous debt ("all trespasses") which they could never pay for (Hell is forever), and seeing as they have instead been "accepted in the Beloved," "translated into Kingdom of his Dear Son" with their real residence being in Heaven, then forgiven soul is both inspired and enabled to let all his “captives” (those against whom he has something) go free. This is necessary for victory (Col. 1:13; 2:13, Eph. 1:6; 2:6).
We must fully believe what the Word of God says about both sin as well as redemption, that holding any kind of a personal grudge is sin, but that we can and must drop all charges and so walk in "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). One must realize and admit his sin, and turn whole-heartedly to Christ and seek forgiveness, giving up their sins and life to Him who Alone gave Himself for us, and who can save and sanctify.
In response to “so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3), at so great a price, by “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), there must be a full surrender of ones life to the Lord, and the putting off of the works of the flesh – and harboring hurts is one of them – and a renewing of the mind.
Romans 12:1, 2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
"But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mat. 6:15).
Nothing can be held back in this surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. Beware of keeping “back part of the price” of the land of the living, and do not make excuses. The soul that is beset by unforgiveness must will to forgive, and renounce any and all unforgiveness, and let go of all grudges, dropping all the grievances he has against any. In real yielded submission to the Lord, he should pray for God to help search his heart and reveal all whom he has something against. As any is revealed, the believer in the Lord Jesus, can and must release those whom he has anything against with an open heart, one that freely (with much gratitude) receives God's forgiveness through the precious blood of JESUS and freely gives it. “...freely ye have received, freely give” (Mt. 10:8).
The soul that has hurt others, either passively or actively, because they held resentment, also needs confess their guilt and sorrow to those that they have hurt (if possible), and seek their forgiveness.
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:31, 32)..
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Col. 3:12-15).
Along with this, we must be diligent to avail ourselves of the means of grace given us, in prayer, devotion to God's Word, fellowship, and worship. And as the Lord promises to give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him (Luke 11:13), you need to pray, and pray often, to be filled with the Spirit of Christ.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Col. 3:16-18).
A person who has caused hurt to one holding a grudge, or has been an object of misdirected wrath, must himself likewise drop an resentment, and should seek open hearted reconciliation by admitting their faults, while praying for a like response by through surrender to the Lord JESUS. And there is a directive for confronting a brother over their sin, in seeking reconciliation (Mt. 18:15-19).
The surrendering of self, and any personal grievances, though initially painful, will result in the knowing of fuller forgiveness, and of joy, and the love of God, and will give a new freedom, and enable more effective witnessing.
A WORD OF WARNING
It is all to common for us to hear a message on this subject and acknowledge that "we have a problem with unforgiveness" and yet excuse ourselves effectively do little or nothing about it. JESUS words will not lend themselves to such complacency or procrastination.
We have already been warned aforetime that "if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mat. 6:35). Then the Lord gives these words regarding one to whom much was forgiven, but who would not respond in kind concerning a vastly smaller debt, "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Mat. 18:33-35).
Wherefore as it is written, "To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb. 4:7).
In there allowance for justified anger?
Yes indeed, and the Scripture demonstrates that holy anger much, both on the part of Almighty God, who hates all workers of iniquity, and the Pslamist who declared, "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved” (Ps. 5:5; 119:158).
But a close examination of such anger reveals that it is because something is evil in principle, being contrary to God, and not because of personal hurt. Righteous anger proceeds out of love for God, because overall it offends Him. In contrast, personal anger proceeds out of self - interest, we feel we have been dealth with wrong, and thus we seek satisfaction for ourselves. We should not be personally angry because someone ignores or demeans us, etc., rather any anger we have should be because above all, evil offends God, and the evil done is wrong in principle, being contrary to His truth. In such a case, then there is a a place for “righteous anger.” Because God is perfect, you cannot insult God without doing something evil in principle. Thus profanity and blasphemy is sin. The more mature a saint is, then the more he loves what God loves and hates what He hates, and reacts accordingly, according to God's Word and the grace given him.
Concerning acceptance and motive
He that is freely accepted by God on Christ's perfect righteousness and blood need not live for the acceptance of men nor fear their rejection, except as it will affect the Name and Cause of Christ. In making Christ our all, we need a heart like King David (who loved his people but spent much time dealing with rejection) who declared , "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Ps. 73:25).
Concerning whom to live for, the Lord Himself declared, "I receive not honor from men" (Jn. 12:41). Likewise Paul, "do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). To the degree that out motive in serving the Lord is for personal recognition and praise, to that degree we dishnor God, and open up ourselves for personal hurt. You cannot make a dead man envious. So we are to “dead indeed unto sin” – and this context not seek our own glory – “but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rm. 6:11).
In faith, we give both our sins and ourselves wholly unto God in complete yielded surrender, trusting Him to be our strength in our God-service to man, and our defense against what man can do unto us, yielding ourselves to God to do whatsoever He commandeth and in His sight, and so honestly seek to open the hearts of men.
Some Relevant Biblical Texts: including the above:
Ps. 86:5; Mat 18:35; Mark 2:10; 11:25; Luke 6:37; 7:47, 48; 11:4; 12:10; 17:3, 4; 23:34; 2 Cor 2:7, 10; 1 John 1:9; Acts 8:21, 22; 26:18; Rom 4:7; Eph 1:7; 4:32; Col 1:14; 2:13; James 5:15; 1 John 2:12 Acts 13:38;
1The object of unforgiveness and inner wrath may not be simply one individual but many, and even institutions. Those who hold a grudge against parents, will often develop a usually latent antagonism against authority figures in general, and or perhaps government, or society, or the particular gender who abused them. .Thus in letting go of such a grievance, the original object of unforgiveness must be freed, as well as people or institutions whom he is may be personally antagonistic against.
2Though the root of bitterness usually has it's beginnings in holding a grievance against someone who actually did cause injustice, developing out of that can be an over-sensitivity to further possible wrongs, so that the person hurt can perceive as a deliberate injustice things that were never intentional done as such, and even imagine things, as well as be inordinately reactive to real wrongs such as life entails. Consistent with this, they can also manifest unwarranted suspicion of most everyone, except those who feed their supposition that people are against them.
3An extreme example of one whose root of bitterness defiled many is that of Hitler, whose own resentment over personal mistreatment found it's expression against an entire race, and justified his lust to bring all in submission to Him. Most of Germany became infected with the same desire for vengeance, to their own hurt.
4Though it may seem otherwise, by "dropping all the "charges," we are not saying we condone in principal any evil that persons have done, rather we are dropping any personal vendetta (when God forgives, He is not declaring our sins to be acceptable, but He is negating the eternal penalty for them, on Christ's account). It is only by "dropping the charges" we hold that we will be able to deal with injustice as God has dealt with us, in a holy manner, and with the good of the offender as our motive, and overall to the glory of God. If a fellow brother has clearly done wrong to us, we can practice the procedure found in Mat. 18:15-17). This also is not to be an exercise in personal vengeance, but it is primarily for personal reconciliation and holy fellowship, in righteousness and grace. And which works for the health of the body – individual and corporate - to the glory of God.
“O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good; for His mercy for ever” (Ps. 107:1)!