Back in the 80’s when I was relentlessly searching for answers after my twelve year old adopted son was raped and my dear brother-in-law died by suicide at nineteen, I attended numerous meetings which mostly were 12-Step based. One of the statements that was often quoted was: ‘Resentments are re-sent-messages’. Essentially, the meaning relayed behind this was that when we hold resentment toward another who has wronged us, we will eventually do to another what had been done to us; that we would pass on the abuse if we held onto resentment; that we would eventually become like the person who had wronged us. Although this is not a ‘law’ that always holds true in all circumstances and by all people, it often does occur.
I recently read that Sentiment in French means “feeling”. In addition, Ressentiment, from which we get our word resentment, literally means “re-feeling”. Although resentment and bitterness are often used interchangeably, there seems to be a slight difference. One person described it as such: ‘If someone were to steal my car, I would feel a strong resentment towards that person, in regard to that act of theft. After walking to work in the snow for a few days, I would also feel bitterness about no longer having a car.’. By this description, we can see how resentment if allowed to fester will eventually lead to bitterness, and bitterness is always self-destructive. Not only does it harm ourselves, but it can also spread and harm others with whom we interact (Hebrews 12:15). It’s a very destructive force.
There have been times in which I have crossed paths with another grieving Momma who has sadly fallen into this downward spiral. Most Bereaved Parents will at some point in their Grief be confronted with anger. This is all part of the grieving process and is part of the ‘new normal’. When that anger begins to transform into resentment, that is the warning signal that we need to nip this thing in the bud before it blooms into bitterness. I’ve often seen such bitterness spread like a wild fire that can get out of control. One person may express her bitterness, then another responds, and before you know it there will be a thread of comments filled with bitterness that begins to pull many into this whirlpool. It may ‘feel good’ to release such feelings, but when it begins to ‘feed’ this beast, it needs to be quenched ASAP. It doesn’t help, it doesn’t heal, it simply breeds hatred.
I’m of the belief that Grace is the antidote. Grace is a beautiful thing; it softens the heart of stone if received. Not all want an antidote, but for those who do it is a welcomed relief. Most folks don’t want to sit in a pool of mire feeling hatred. However, there are some who believe they have a ‘right’ to it. There is nothing wrong in being angry. God, Himself, is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11). However, we have to keep that anger in check. If we find ourselves saying: ‘I resent that’, we need to hear it as an alarm going off warning us that we are on a pinnacle. At such a point, we need to decide and choose whether or not we will take a step backwards toward a safety zone, or fall into an abyss of bitterness. We choose. Someone may have done something horrific to us, but we choose to either react with hatred or respond with Love. It’s not easy. The choice can mean giving up a ‘right’, and that can be costly. However, it will never be as costly as hardening our hearts to the point in which our life becomes crippled with bitterness.
Extending Grace which is unmerited by the receiver, at first can be quite painful to do. We know for a fact that the recipient does not deserve it. They have done absolutely nothing to warrant it. They deserve punishment and we deserve justice. No ‘ifs, and or buts’ about it. It is a true act of Faith to extend Grace under such circumstances, especially when our child has been killed. Even when a murderer has received some justice in our legal system, we often still have to deal with all of these feelings within ourselves. I am not speaking of things of which I have no personal knowledge, because my son was killed. The justice system in my case did act swiftly and the murderer was charged with aggravated homicide, spent three years in prison, and was then deported back to a war-torn country of his origin. Though I was grateful that I could see some justice enacted, my child was still gone and I still had to deal with and confront all of these feelings. I never felt condemned by my God for having them; quite the opposite, in fact. God validated me under the Law of the Old Testament. I found that under the Law, I had every right to kill the person who had killed my son.
Then, I went to the New Testament, the New Covenant. It was there I found Grace. The Law has not been done away with, but rather fulfilled in the Christ. I now know that vengeance belongs to God. I now know that He will avenge me and my son, as well as, his siblings. I now know that God has extended Grace unto me. I don’t deserve it any more than the person who killed my son. But I chose to receive it which freed me from the resentment that could have forever bound me in bitterness. God’s Grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). We may not think that it is; we may not feel that it is. Nevertheless, it is. I need to deal with what is in me before the Throne and get out of God’s way so He can deal with those who have wronged me. I have to ‘let go and let God’.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at:
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