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Resentment: The Soul Killer

My husband and I attend a couples group at the moment.  Our marriage is rock solid and very happy and stable, but we’re always looking at ways to improve and strengthen it.  And a good way to do that is to get together with like-minded couples and share our experiences and relationship skills. The other evening the topic of “resentment” came up and was cause for an interesting discussion.

As I have travelled the road of personal and spiritual growth I have come across a great deal of discussion on the subject of resentment.  Most authors/speakers agree that harboring resentment is not positively productive for the soul.  My personal opinion is that resentment is a soul killer.  Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

First of all I checked the meaning of the word resentment in good old Merriam-Webster.  These are some of the words that came up: animosity, antagonism, rancor, ill will, malice, malignancy, spite. Digging a little deeper I found hatred, grudge, poison, bile, bitterness, and meanness.  I don’t think any of these words would fall into the “positive” or “warm-fuzzy” category!  And when I checked out “malignancy” it talked about something “tending or likely to cause death”. 

The word resentment actually comes from the old Latin word and the modern Italian word “risentire”, which means to re-feel or to feel again.  In other words it means dragging up a feeling that I have already experienced and turning it over in my heart and my mind so I can feel it all over again.  This means living in the past, because if I’m re-feeling, it means I’m referring to something I’ve already experienced – yesterday, or last week, or a month ago, maybe even years ago. 

Hanging onto a resentment means that I do this over and over again.  Now I’m not sure about anyone else, but in my book that indicates that I want to “wallow” in the negative feeling.  I want to sit on my little pity pot and have my own private misery party!! In doing this, I am robbing myself of the joy of living in the present: I am expending energy and time that I could be devoting to the present moment.

So what’s to be done when this ugly feeling invades our heart?  Well I have found only one answer:  forgiveness.  It’s sometimes a very hard thing to practice, but my other choice is to live in all the negative stuff that I’ve talked about in the previous paragraphs.  But how do I forgive someone who has done something real bad to me I hear you ask.  Well I have found only one answer to that one too: pray for them.

Believe me, I have not always found this an easy practice.  But considering the alternative I have put lots of effort into this and it works.  Sometimes my prayers are said through gritted teeth initially. But if I allow myself to really sink into the prayer rather than think about the person I am praying for then it becomes a little easier.  It is hard to be in conversation with God with a grimace on my face.

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