Bittersweet, cherished – resentment

By Dave Henning / April 6, 2023

“Resentment is bittersweet.  If we did not cherish it, we would let it go. . . .  [We] enjoy the feeling of hurt that the memory kindles. . . .  We feel noble and worthy as the decent person who was wrongly hurt.  Resentments serve a double-purpose: they give us treasured pain, and they give us a chance to justify ourselves.”- Lewis Smedes, Love within Limits

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”- Ephesians 4:31 (ESV)

Timothy Keller continues Chapter 10 of Forgive as he counsels that when someone wrongs you, you think of them one-dimensionally.  You define that person in terms of that one thing they did to you.  However, you continue to think of yourself as a three-dimensional, complex human being.

Consequently, your self-justification engine takes hold of the wrong.  As a result, you proclaim, ‘I could never do something like that.”  Thus, your heart instinctively pushes back against the perpetrator.  You feel a small victory as you look down on the wrongdoer.  In Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf provides a classic statement about that:

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy form the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners.  But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion.”

Next, Pastor Keller moves on to the second element of forgiveness.  The second element = inwardly pay the debt of the wrongdoer yourself rather than make him pay it.  Most significantly, the author describes this as the heart of the Christian meaning of forgiveness.

Wrongdoing always comes with a cost.  So, either the wrongdoer pays it or someone else must.  To forgive, then, is to:

  • deny oneself revenge
  • absorb the cost
  • not exact payment by inflicting on them the things they did to you in order to “even the score”

Finally, forgiveness, while expensive to the forgiver, carries benefits that outweigh the cost.

Today’s question: Do you see resentment as something that’s bittersweet, yet cherished?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The currency of forgiveness”

About the author

Dave Henning

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