When we think of health and wellness, we often relate it to the physical aspects of our being. We often do this to the neglect of our spirit and our soul. This practice leads to an imbalance within our lives. It also causes us to not be completely whole. Why? Because there is a deficit in some part of our being.
We have to focus upon our spirits and how it relates to our souls and how they both can affect our bodies. For example, our emotions, in whichever state, either positive or negative, can affect our physical being. For the purposes of our illustration, let us use harboring resentment towards someone else because of something they may have said or done to us.
What is resentment? Resentment is “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” For something to be considered persistent, it means that it is “existing for a long or longer than usual time or continuously.” In other words, we are holding onto an injustice for a period that is not beneficial to our overall well-being.
According to an article in Psychology Today, resentment is a general ego defense. What does this mean? It means that “the more fragile the ego, the more resentment required for defense.” What are some of the signs that helps us to understand whether someone is harboring resentment? The article goes on to list seven general characteristics of resentment:
- High emotional reactivity – a negative feeling in one triggers chaos or shut down in the other
- External regulation of emotions – unpleasant emotions are regulated by attempts to control or devalue the other
- Automatic defense systems (See ADS post)
- Power struggles – try to “win” or exert power rather than reconcile and connect
- Criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness, contempt
- Walking on eggshells – both parties feel this, but typically one will internalize, second-guess, and reangle the self in vain attempts to avoid the other’s resentment or abuse
- Narrow and rigid emotional range – the parties seesaw between resentment and depression, with little emotional experience in between.
Dr. Steven Stosny suggests that “resentment is more of a mood than an emotional state, and the behaviors it motivates are more habit than choice, with disastrous effects on health and well being.” This suggests that resentment is not the by-product of one event, but a culmination of events stemming from the individual’s past. It is a conditioned response. The behavior and mood becomes a way of life for the person as the person’s worldview has become tainted by those events. This causes the person to automatically begin to search for things to resent because it has become a part of their psychology.
Resentment also increases our stress levels, according to Dr. Stosny. He mentions that, “Resentment increases stress by lowering the capacity to cope with it.” This is important because it includes spiritual, mental or physical stress. In addition to this, it is common knowledge that long-term stress has the ability to negatively affect our overall health and well-being.
We each have internal stress responses that alert us to presence of any form of stress occurring in our lives. As the internal stress responses continue, they can “suppress immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems, which may cause them to stop working normally.” The National Institutes of Health adds, “continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental disorders like depression or anxiety.”
To further add to this, the Bible speaks of “letting all bitterness, and wrath, and anger…be put away from you…” and “putting off all these; anger, wrath, malice…” (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8). Holding on to resentment places a strain on relationships. It also hinders any possibility of reconciliation within relationships. Eventually, it breeds bitterness and leads to feelings of hatred toward others. This is the ultimate culmination of spiritual, soulish, and physical stressors stemming from one seed of resentment.
How do we combat harboring resentment? By embracing the willingness to extend forgiveness to others. If we were to reflect on all of the negative effects listed above, then we can easily understand why it is often said that forgiveness is more for us than the person being forgiven. In the end, we are affected more on a spiritual, soulish, and physical level than others. More often than not, the other individual has moved forward in life and are not thinking about the past. So why should we dwell on the past if it could potentially lead to our self-destruction? In other words, let it go.
Sean Mungin, author of “The Thorn In The Flesh”