Self-Justified Resentment: Dangerous Form of Self-Righteousness

On October 24, 2010, I presented a study on forgiveness instead of harboring resentments.

One prime fact that I discovered during my final years in law enforcement, where I investigated more then a 1000 incidents ranging from petty arguments turned violent, drug deals, murder, grand larceny, domestic violence, etc: Was that NONE of the multitude of investigations had any innocent parties. Everyone involved in each situation, regardless of degree or personal justification, was part of the cause and blame of their incident.

Remember that the TWO New Testament words we translate “to forgive” means literally “to let go” or “to cancel” a wrong.

This study will seek to answer the important and vital questions concerning why people cannot bring themselves to obey God’s clear commands concerning forgiveness of others.

Interpersonal Relations:

“Interpersonal relations” is not often thought of as a Bible topic, but advice about dealing with other people makes up a large part of the teachings of Jesus and His apostles as well as the wisdom books of the Old Testament. Whether dealing with parents, children, spouses, family, friends, co-workers, fellow church members, or even enemies, the Bible’s advice is spiritually sound and effective for promoting peace and harmony and therefore is a Bible topic for all people to study and learn.

Over the entire course of my life span, I have seen and taken part in way too many examples of resentment. I have watched resentments crop up in families, friendships, businesses, and recovery meetings. I have seen that even religion is not safe from the destruction of resentments. Now and again, as egos and personalities get to work before principles and the result, almost universally, are justified resentments?

The word resentment comes from the Latin word “sentire” which means, “to feel”, and when you put “re” in front of any word, it means “again”, so the word resentment means, “to feel again”.  Resentments includes people, institutions and/or principles with whom we were angry, with whom we were hurt, with whom we are threatened, with whom we are interfered with, with whom we felt had wronged us. Resentment is nothing less then consciously or unconsciously staying sore at some person, institution or principle.

I always thought that resentment was reasonable, acceptable, and almost fun at times. Resentment became a way of life for me because it seemed like I had problems with or was annoyed by most of the people, institutions or principles I knew in life.

But, if we want to enjoy God’s forgiveness, then our resentments must be mastered,” and here is why:

  • Resentment destroys more than anything else (countries, families, friendships, churches, businesses).
  • A life, which includes deep justified resentment, leads only to futility.
  • A life, which includes deep resentment, leads to perpetual unhappiness.
  • To the precise extent that we permit resentments to rule our lives, we squander the hours that might have been worthwhile to others and ourselves.
  • All around the world, the business of resentment keeping is fatal.
  • One of the greatest enemies of all people everywhere is justified resentments, which lead to jealousy, frustration, and fear.

We must honestly ask ourselves; are we earnestly seeking to get rid of the resentments in our life, or do we hold on to some, considering them unavoidable (justified)?

This is important and something to really think about.

Letting go of resentments means forgiving and God Commands Forgiveness:

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:14-16 ESV)

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6:37 ESV)

What is forgiveness?

Simply put, forgiveness is letting go of the need for revenge and releasing the negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment towards a person, institution, or situation. Is it easy to do? No! However, it is easy to see where in a person’s life they have not actually or honestly forgiven others.

  • Lack of forgiveness can be readily seen in our demeanor towards the people we have not forgiven.
  • Lack of forgiveness can be readily seen in our speech about or towards the people we have not forgiven.
  • Lack of forgiveness cannot be hidden very long due to the prevailing attitude’s that not forgiving manifests’ within our hearts and our lives.
  • Lack of forgiveness hinders our effectiveness for the cause of Christ.

All of the New Testament teachings on relations follow from Jesus’ commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was most important, He replied,

“And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:26-31 ESV)

The English word “love” has many different meanings, but this “Christian love” of the Bible comes from the Greek word agape, which means good will and benevolent concern for all others. It is deliberate, purposeful rather than emotional or impulsive love.

“Love your neighbor” was not a new commandment:

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18 ESV)

The people of Jesus’ time had developed an extremely restricted view of who should be considered a “neighbor.” In His Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus corrected that view and teaches us that a “neighbor” is anyone we come in contact with: Period!

Self-righteousness = Arrogance:

No one is perfect; we are all sinners in one-way or another as Romans 3:21-24 and 1 John 1:8 tell us. If we treat people we consider to be “sinners” with scorn, or think we are better than they are, we are guilty of the sin of self-righteousness:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

Judging, Criticizing, Condemning:

Self-righteousness is one of the hardest sins to avoid because it is so much easier to see other people’s faults than to see our own faults. But, judgment of a person’s character must be left to God.

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4 ESV)

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12 ESV)

Rather than look for faults in others, we should look for the good in others and try to correct the faults within ourselves. Rather than criticizing other people, we should concentrate on living holy lives, ourselves. Jesus’ parable of a person with a log in his eye trying to see to remove a speck from another’s eye reminds us that we probably have bigger faults within ourselves (including self-righteousness) than the faults we like to criticize in others:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

This does not mean, however, that all sin should be ignored:

  • Christians should help each other recognize and overcome sinful actions and attitudes, but it must be done in a sincere spirit of love and not with the intention to punish, embarrass or disparage as we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, James 5:19-20, 1 Timothy 5:1-2, and 2 Timothy 4:2 but not hold to resentments.
  • Churches have the right to excommunicate members who bring reproach or embarrassment on the church as directed by Paul when he wrote 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 and 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 but not hold to resentments.

Anger, Retaliation, Revenge:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)

No one MAKES us angry. Anger is our choice from our own emotional response to some action or event. More often than not, our angry feelings are based on a misinterpretation of what someone said or did or on our own exaggerated sense of pride. Angry words and actions escalate hostilities and block corrective and healthy communication rather than solve problems. Whether between church member, parent and child, spouses, siblings, friends, or nations; expressions of anger divide us and drive us toward open hostility or covert hostility.

It is all too easy to react to life’s annoyances and disappointments with anger. It is far more challenging, but much better, to react with understanding and empathy. In this way, we can quickly settle disputes and avoid turning minor incidents into major battles full of resentments and hurt feelings:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20 ESV)

Holding a grudge will consume us with hatred, blocking out all enjoyment of life where the resented party is concerned. A grudge clouds our judgment and may lead us to an act of revenge that can never be undone. The Old Testament law specified equal revenge for equal wrong: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” but that rule was too harsh for the new age of the kingdom of God. Jesus said the right thing to do is to take no revenge at all:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV)

Gossip, Slander, Lies, Deception:

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 ESV)

The words we say or write have tremendous power for good or evil. Words can promote love and understanding or inflame prejudice and hatred. It is words that make or break marriages and other relationships. Words can make peace or make war. Our words should always show a spirit of Christian love.

A lie is any false statement made with the intent to deceive someone. We must always be honest in our dealings with other people. The Bible strongly condemns any attempt to deceive with the intent to hurt or gain unfair advantage:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16 ESV)

“For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;” (1 Peter 3:10 ESV)

Gossip is an act of hostility (slander) intended to harm someone’s reputation. I call this Murder by Character Assignationand we ALL must avoid the temptation to gossip at all cost as it breads resentments:

“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28 ESV)

Humility, Humbleness:

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12 ESV)

An attitude of humility is the key to dealing with other people in a Biblical way. Humility or humbleness is a quality of being courteously respectful of others. It is the opposite of resentments, aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness, and exaggerated pride. Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs of others. Why do principles such as courtesy, patience, and deference have such a prominent place in the Bible? It is because a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons and to reconcile others backs to God. Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self worth. Rather, it affirms the inherent worth of all persons.

The Golden Rule:

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31 ESV)

The “Golden Rule”, spoken by Jesus, is possibly one of the most repeated quotes from the Bible and is the standard Jesus set for dealing with other people. If we wish to be loved, we must give love. If we wish to be respected, we must respect all persons, even those we dislike. If we wish to be forgiven, we must also forgive. If we wish others to speak kindly of us, we must speak kindly of them and avoid gossip. If we want happy marriages, we must be faithful, forgiving and kind to our spouses. If we wish to be fulfilled in our lives, we must share generously with others.


“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

We should always be willing to forgive others and not hold any resentment against them. Holding a grudge and/or seeking revenge have no place in the lives of Christians. Jesus calls us to remember that we are all God’s children. Just as He loves all His people and is willing to forgive their sins, we should be willing to forgive also.

If you have not fully examined yourself lately” and are in any way holding resentments towards others, now is the time to obey God’s will and be free from the bondage of this grave sin.

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)

Hugs, Guy Lewis

Payson, Arizona: Sunday, April 10, 2011