Are You Carrying Resentments?
By Don Umphrey
(with scriptural citations from the NIV)
I asked the following question to an adult Bible class I was teaching: “What does the program of Alcoholics Anonymous name as the number one offender of the alcoholic?”
Some people mentioned things about alcohol itself, but no one got the right answer. They were surprised when I told them the answer: Resentments.
Here is what AA has written on this topic: “Resentment … destroys more alcoholics than anything else From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.”1
Our word resentment stems from the Latin sentire which means to feel. The “re” means again. So resentment is literally “feeling again.” More specifically, it is defined as “anger about a bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly."2
According to Vivian Bricker, “Resentment has no place in a Christian’s heart… What the Bible tells us is to let go of any resentful feelings toward others.”3
AA literature includes “the story of a woman whose drinking landed her in jail twice and nearly ruined her third marriage. Her final drunk, she recalls, lasted 60 days, around the clock. ‘It was my intention literally to drink myself to death,’ she said. Joining AA saved her life, largely because it helped her overcome the habit of resentment.”
This woman wrote that “self-pity and resentment were my constant companions… for I seemed to have a resentment against everybody I had ever known.” Moreover, “the only people who would support this attitude or whom I felt understood me at all were the people I met in bars, and the people who drank as I did.”4
How Resentments Hurt Me
Speaking for myself, I already knew about the dangers of resentments, but, unfortunately, I’ve sometimes had to learn important lessons the hard way.
While serving on the faculty of a large university, the department in which I taught developed into two opposing factions over in-house politics. It seemed like every time the group to which I belonged tried to maneuver, we were beaten back severely.
Finally, a university official met with our entire faculty and said, in essence, “if you don’t like it, lump it!”
Wow, that really ticked me off.
Some faculty members quit and moved to different schools. I stayed but wallowed in resentments, hating the people I perceived as enemies and wishing them the worst.
As this went on, my resentments started impacting me negatively via my sleeping patterns. When I went to bed, I didn’t know if I would go to sleep or toss and turn all night with absolutely no sleep. I frequently taught without having slept the previous night or even two nights in a row.
Twice, I hadn’t slept for three consecutive nights and still had to teach three one-hour lectures the following day.
Spiritually sick, I was miserable!
Praying for Perceived Enemies
To save my sanity I started praying for my co-workers. I wish I could say that my life got better immediately, but with the passage of time I was able to see some improvement. My sleep finally returned to normal, and I eventually ended up on friendly terms with professors I’d previously disdained.
“You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45).
“'In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:13-16).
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Copyright 2023 by Don Umphrey
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1. Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, Alcoholics Anonymous World Series, Inc., New York, 1976.
2.Oxford American Dictionary online.
3. Vivian Bricker, What Does the Bible Say about Resentment? Christianity.com, 2021