Letter to the editor: What to do with resentment?

Road in a forest.
(Photo by: Joshua Welch)
Road in a forest. (Photo by: Joshua Welch)

Dear editor:
I’m a preacher’s kid (PK). What do you do when you hold anger in your heart against your parents but still want to respect and honor them like God wants you to? How can you let it go while still acknowledging the wrongs? Have I really forgiven them yet if I still remember?

Dear PK: 
First of all, thank you for your honesty. I’ve had similar questions myself about how to deal with feelings of resentment, how to acknowledge wrong without fixating on it and how to move on from pain without trivializing it. I appreciate that you’re asking the hard questions. 

I know I have a lot more to learn in this area, but here are a few things I’ve come to understand.

First, I want to encourage you that it isn’t wrong to acknowledge when someone has sinned against you. It isn’t wrong to grieve it. In fact, I think it would be wrong to let it pass by, overlook it or push it under the rug. Sin doesn’t just disappear; it goes places inside of us, and it destroys as it goes. If we neglect it inside ourselves, it spreads to others. To not choose confrontation — both with the person who has wronged us and with the emotional repercussions of that wrong in our own hearts — is to treat the hurt dishonestly, as if it is harmless, inconsequential. It’s not. 

But what would confronting sin look like? Here’s what it doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like savoring the wrong like a lozenge, turning it around and around in your heart, exploring its depths again and again, until the hurt sours and grows and becomes as destructive as the wrong that prompted it. This would only deepen the pain, spreading its consequences further into your life and the lives of others. 

Instead, confronting the sin may look like hard conversations, both vertically (with God) and horizontally (with the people who have hurt you). It might look like letting someone back into your heart, talking about hard things with them that you’ve never voiced but always noticed. Or it might look like telling someone “no” for the first time and setting up new boundaries. It depends on the specifics of your situation. 

But confrontation isn’t the last step. After the acknowledgement of wrong done and hurt received, you must make the choice to ask or to not ask God the simple questions: “What is your command for me here? What do you want for me in this place?” As difficult a situation as it may be, God does have a plan for you there, a next step in mind. 

I don’t know what that step may be in your situation, but I do know that God doesn’t demand that your life return to normal, that you forget the hurt done to you or even that you ignore the pain of present hurt, but that you allow Him to make you something in it, something beautiful. His intention is that in this place, you learn to let God command you, to submit to His gentle teaching and to embrace forgiveness. That is God’s intention for you, and He is incredibly good at working with difficult situations, suffering people and throbbing hearts. 

I’ll be thinking and praying for you as you continue on this journey. 

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