Resentment, Bitterness, and Conflict
Live in harmony with one another . . . If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:16,18
Years ago, I had it out with another medical professional about the care of one of our patients. We didn’t come to blows, but it was close. Both convinced that we were right and the other was wrong, neither of us was willing to back down. Harsh, hateful words were exchanged. I dislike conflict, but once I got mad, I couldn’t let it go. I went home furious and allowed the encounter to control my thoughts for weeks – maybe months. I eventually had to get to the point where I realized I was maintaining the conflict and allowing the event – and the other individual – to control my mind. Filled with hate and anger about the situation, it was poisoning my soul. I had to figure out how to let it go or it was going to consume me.
Bitterness, resentment, and anger are like that. When we maintain conflict with others, it gives them control over our minds. This poisons our thoughts, twisting us and turning us away from who we were made to be. While we indulge in bitterness and hate, we cannot simultaneously pursue our relationship with the father.
It’s because of this that Paul said, in today’s passage, that as far as we are concerned, we must choose to live in harmony with those around us. This doesn’t mean we abandon our convictions and it doesn’t mean we never disagree with anyone. It just means we choose not to create and maintain conflict, bitterness, and resentments. We can learn to disagree without being hateful.
We long to control others. We wish they would change. We want them to see how they’ve hurt us, and we fantasize about them groveling, begging our forgiveness. So, we cling to our hurt and resentment, in hopes that someday we’ll find satisfaction and vindication. In hoping to control others with our anger, we ironically give them power over us, allowing them to control our thoughts.
The truth is, we cannot control anyone else. We’re responsible only for ourselves. We choose only for ourselves, and the choice is ours. We can continue to live in bitterness and resentment, allowing it to consume us. Or, as Paul commanded, we can let it go, choosing life, joy, and peace.