Resentment and Forgiveness
But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. Genesis 3:4
Even as I write this, I’ve got someone whom I need to forgive. I feel I was wronged, and now, I’m clinging to my resentment. Why? I’d suggest that resentment is an addiction of mine. When I’m hurt, I want to seethe about it. It makes me feel better – momentarily – to indulge in my anger, imagining how I might hurt the other person in return. Like any immediate gratification though, the relief found by indulging in my resentment fades as I’m left empty and unsatisfied. And so, I must either let go and forgive, or return for more resentment.
I know that resentment isn’t healthy, but I do it because it makes me feel good right now – which is the definition of addictive behavior. I know I should forgive, but that’s far more difficult. I’m justified. I’ve been wronged. I can’t just let this go. That, however, is the definition of forgiveness – to let go of the debt. Honestly, I don’t think this other individual even recognizes that he or she has done anything wrong and any passive aggressive behavior on my part to take revenge will be lost on him or her. For my own emotional and spiritual health, I know I must forgive. Still, it’s hard to let go. Letting go means I can’t hold this over him or her anymore. Letting go means I’ll never get the satisfaction of being proven right.
Today’s passage provides an example of forgiveness from one who was justified in his resentment. Jacob, years prior, had cheated Esau out of his birthright and inheritance. In his rage, Esau wanted to kill Jacob, who fled. Twenty years passed and now God brought Jacob home, but he was still right to be terrified of Esau’s brother’s wrath. Esau could have stewed for 20 years, indulging in his resentments. However, he was able to see that despite Jacob’s treachery, God had blessed them both. Esau no longer wanted revenge. He just wanted his brother back and so, he let go of the debt and he forgave. Esau would have been justified in his resentment, but it would have eaten him alive over those 20 years. So, for his own good, he let it go.
Who must we forgive? We may be justified in clinging to resentment but that hurts only us. Resentment is an addiction and like any addiction, it’s toxic to our spiritual and emotional health. If we want to know the life, joy, and peace for which we were created, we must forgive – even if the other individual has no idea they need forgiveness.