Searching the topic of resentment and grudges likely means you’re familiar with disappointment, deep pain or even betrayal. I’m so sorry that you are faced with the heavy lifting of healing. It’s hard and it’s not fair. However, the only thing worse than doing the heavy lifting of healing is to do nothing at all.
Since you are looking up how to let go of resentment and grudges, you want something better for your heart. Only the most courageous dare to heal from disappointment or betrayal. Unraveling emotions, self protection and the complexities of a broken heart is not for the weak. However, it is a journey that will change you from shackled to free.
In this article, you will learn about how resentment takes root. We will outline the cost of settling into a place of bitterness and resentment. Additionally, refusing to let go of resentment and grudges will impact your relationships. Finally, we will cover how to let go of resentment and grudges in actionable ways.
What is resentment?
Resentment is defined as: bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly. Wikipedia had my favorite definition- “Resentment is a complex, multi-layered emotion that has been described as a mixture of disappointment, discussed, anger and fear.” Yep, that’s a good definition. Resentment is definitely a mixture of negative emotions. Sometimes resentment results from a single event. Other times it can come from a ton of small events that have added up to a hardened heart.
How does resentment take root?
When learning how to let go of resentment, it’s important to know where it all starts. Having a better understanding at the beginning or root will help you prevent a hardened heart that is bound up with bitterness. Prevention is always my route of choice. Waiting until bitterness has taken root requires a lot more work.
Seeds of Unforgiveness
All around our home are huge overgrown palm trees. Little seed pods fall off constantly, leaving tree plantings all over the place. Sometimes I can pick up these seeds before they have planted themselves. Other times they have taken root and I pull them up when little sprouts poke through the ground. The last owner allowed two seedlings to take root in an odd place in the front yard. The trees had grown so big, they were lifting the sidewalk. It was beyond pulling out without the help of professionals. Tree removers were hired to get rid of these two huge palm trees.
Let’s imagine the seeds are unforgiveness. When we are quick to spot the unforgiveness, we can pick them up and throw them away. The longer unforgiveness goes unnoticed, the harder it becomes to pluck it out. As we tend to unforgiveness, resentment and grudges take root. The deeper these roots go, the more damage is done. As damage to our hearts and relationships go untreated the removal of the roots of bitterness will only get harder to remove.
More on the topic of forgiveness here.
The cost of not letting go of resentment and grudges.
Resentment and bitterness tends to have the greatest impact on the person holding onto the offense. In other words, we choose to continue experiencing the pain of the offense when we don’t let it go. (Remember, forgiveness is the first step of letting go.) Bottom line: You have the most to lose.
Without doing the healing work, we have a tendency to self-protect. We begin to build walls around ourselves in vain attempts to thwart pain. At first glance, this may seem like an effective way to avoid getting hurt, but we miss out on a lot of good as a result. Walls will block the bad from coming in. Consequently, it also blocks the good. We can’t have it both ways. Additionally, the people God has placed in your life will not receive your best. Everyone loses to some extent in this scenario.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything in your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it in tact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it up carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, and impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis
How to Let Go of Resentment and Grudges
Choosing to let go of resentment and grudges is the pivotal moment in beginning the process to untangle resentments. Be prayerful – offering up your true feelings to God in confession. Tell the Most High about your hurts and your awareness of bitterness taking root. He will help you through forgiveness and healing.
We’ve already identified that forgiveness is the starting point for preventing resentment and bitterness. Check out this verse –
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God for gave you. Ephesians 4:32
As children of God, we are called to forgive because we’ve been forgiven much. Forgiveness comes from the abundance we’ve received through Jesus. Consequently, it does not come from the offender’s apology, regret or remorse. Nor does it come from “feeling” like it. Learn more about biblical forgiveness…
The verse preceding Ephesians 4:32, contrasts what not to do…
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Ephesians 4:31
It’s interesting how the two verses contrast one another. In order to get rid of bitterness, anger and fighting we must act from forgiveness, kindness and compassion. We are unable to put on one without putting off the other. This is an act of obedience. Put another way- an intentional choice.
I’m not suggesting this is an easy thing to do. On the contrary, this act of will can only be done in dependence on Christ.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Acknowledge the Pain
In Christian circles, we are quick to slap a blanket, “I forgive you” on things. We become too hasty to move forward rather than acknowledging the pain. In doing so, we short circuit the healing. When disappointment, hurt or betrayal comes into play- acknowledge what happened. Then go deeper still… Acknowledge the impact the offense had on you- emotionally physically and spiritually. This is vital in processing the pain and healing.
Get the journaling guide to forgiveness and healing for more help on processing through the pain.
Disappointment, hurt or betrayal require hard conversations. Whether little things have built up over time or one major event knocks you off your feet- an open and honest conversation is a necessary component. Moving forward without honest communication is not authentic reconciliation. (Reconciliation is not always possible more on that here.)
Putting it All Together
Learning how to let go of resentment and grudges takes courage. You can do this (2 Corinthians 12:9)! It all begins with forgiveness. Remember- choosing to harden your heart comes at a high cost to you and your loved ones.
Once you’ve given your yes to God regarding forgiveness, then acknowledge the pain. Healing requires acknowledging what happened and the impact of the offense. Get the healing guide here for more help. Engage the person who hurt you if possible and have hard conversations. Even if hard conversations with the offender is not possible, healing is still yours for the taking!