The Hostile, Gnarled Claws of Resentment

A friend recently showed me a humorous cartoon of a sweet-faced, innocent-looking elementary school girl eating lunch while others look on and comment.  The message to the cartoon: “Once you hate someone, everything they do is offensive,” with the onlookers’ comment being “Look at this jerk eating those crackers like she owns the place.”  Obviously, the girl is just eating lunch, but the message is clear: when there’s someone we don’t like, his or her every action is questionable, every word is judged wrong, and every motive must be devious.  At one of my locales, we’ve reached a standoff between a couple of regulars, where they hate each other so much that everything they do is deemed belligerent and aggressive, despite that fact that it probably isn’t.  However, these people have such a deep-seeded aversion towards each other that they refuse to resolve it.  Watching this hostility occur, and attempting to mediate it, I found myself wondering from where this hatred came.  Unable to find it’s root cause, I continued to search and found from all involved parties that none of them had ever approached the other to confront, but instead harbored resentment and then continued onward.  One of those involved has often quoted to me this adage: “silence breeds monsters.” When we have issues with another person and merely move forward in anger without confrontation, that anger usually doesn’t go away, but instead sinks its talons into us in the form of resentment, which is what seemed to have happened here.  Just the other day, I became angry at one of these involved individuals for personal reasons.  I sat at home steaming, building him up in my mind to be a tremendous fiend.  I sought advice from someone who suggested I merely confront him.  Hesitantly (and somewhat fearfully), I called him and started off with a direct question about the matter.  What followed was an often-engaging and very satisfactory half-hour conversation where we both hung up with a better understanding of each other and the situation.  With my anger dissipated and an understanding on both sides, he worked to resolve it, complimenting me on my directness and initiative.  As such, our relationship is now stronger, as he knows that when there is an issue, I will bring it to him.  Ephesians 4.26 states: “In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  As an often used maxim for married couples, many interpret this verse to be that they shouldn’t go to bed angry.  More than likely, the verse means that we should deal with our anger before it is too late to deal with it: the point where anger turns to resentment.  Then, we begin to despise the other person instead of not liking what it is that he or she has done or said.  When we allow that process to happen, marriages sour, friendships spoil, and coworkers turn despite the fact that these are people who will be in our lives well after the offense.  Like pouring salt onto fertile land, long-held anger poisons the relationship, and nothing can grow as a result.  Additionally, the sin then becomes doubled, as it includes not just the individual who committed the wrong, but also the wronged person, who now harbors sin against that other person.  When we are wronged or offended by another’s actions or words, nothing can be gained from holding onto that anger, and the best approach to letting it go may be to confront, as you will most likely gain an empathetic understanding of the moment in question.  By letting go of our anger through respectful confrontation, the long term gains won’t involve contempt and resentment.  Amen.

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