The Other Side of Resentment: Forgiven, but Can You Forgive Yourself?

The Other Side of Resentment: Forgiven, but Can You Forgive Yourself?

Joseph renewed his promise to provide for his brothers and their children. The Bible says he comforted and spoke kindly to them. I like to imagine a big group hug took place — all of Jacob’s sons truly together, at last.

While Joseph had let go of his resentment and completely forgiven his brothers, they had not dealt with the other side of the resentment coin: the guilt of those who brought it about to begin with. Receiving forgiveness is hard, especially when you cannot forgive yourself.

Things worked out for Joseph and his brothers. Those families became a nation that brought the love of God to the world through Jesus, a descendant of the Jewish King David. We are blessed today because thousands of years ago, a betrayed slave-boy-turned-Egyptian viceroy chose to forgive – to let his resentment go.

Resentment has become no less a problem for believers today. Indeed, it is a worldwide spiritual epidemic. Worst of all, it thrives and ruins lives and testimonies among Christians – the very people who should be examples to the world of forgiveness in action.

Resentment births retaliation, robs us of our sleep, breaks up businesses, splinters families and ruins churches. In the Body of Christ, it derails congregational harmony, lurking like a disease just below the spiritual and emotional surface for millions of believers.

How do we conquer resentment? Is there a magical Twelve-Step program? A particularly blessed pill? Will being anointed with oil do it?

Well, you don’t conquer it. You have to let it go. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you shed the chains of resentment that are enslaving you. Here are some steps to help you walk away, not looking back:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings of resentment; admit its effects on you, your relationships with your loved ones, friends and God.

Admit, seek and give forgiveness.

  1. Realize that in that trial, betrayal, loss or setback you experienced, God was positioning you for greatness.
  2. Make a step toward the altar to confirm your desire for freedom from resentment through the Holy Spirit. This can be a response in your church (going forward physically) or during your personal prayer time. Either way, though, be accountable — share your prayer and commitment with a pastor or other trusted believer.
  3. Someone has to own it; someone has to step up. Do your best to make it right. This may be the toughest thing to do, but the act of forgiveness alone will not repair broken relationships or heal wounds suffered or inflicted in retaliation by you. Forgiveness must be sought and expressed.
  4. There are no guarantees, of course, that your efforts will be accepted. If they are, a relationship will have been restored – it likely will be even better than it was before whatever occurred to damage it.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Walking in the light, free from the burden of resentment, is God’s will for all of His children.


Arni Jacobson, Director of Church Expansion – Grace International

This post is derived from Arni Jacobson’s book THE HIGH COST OF RESENTMENT. A more in-depth version of this blog can be found in the book. If you’d like to order a copy of the book for $10, please email Brooke Pierce – bpierce@grace.tv

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