Resentment in relationships can have many different faces. Resentment is more than jealous feelings; it is bitter indignation that you are being treated unfairly. It is only seeing one side and feeling sincerely hurt to the point of letting it interfere with your relationship or feelings toward someone else.
Resentment between friends might be intense envy when a best friend can have a child and the other is having a difficult time conceiving. It might be losing sight of being happy for them and becoming angry because they became pregnant on the first try while you have been trying for years.
It can mean feeling like your heart is shattered when they announce their pregnancy to you because you assume that they are not thinking about the fact that you are meeting with an infertility specialist in the next month.
Resentment between an employee and employer can mean seeing a “favorite” employee granted vacation while another is denied that same week of vacation. One employee may be taken out to lunch or given a fancier office because the employer seems to prefer their vivacious personality.
Resentment between siblings might occur when one receives better treatment than the other. It can mean being a grandparent or aunt’s favorite who receives packages and money for no reason at all while the other sibling is ignored and overlooked. It can seem like you are trying to do all the right things but feel unwanted or overlooked by someone else in your family.
Resentment between spouses might come about in a wife who is desperate for a mental break but feels she cannot ask her husband because she is a stay-at-home mom and her husband works 50+ hours a week to provide for their household. She hears her husband say “I need a mental break” all the time, so she fears asking him for those few minutes to herself so she can go for a run alone or go pick up groceries without three toddlers in tow.
She assumes that her husband is not looking out for her mental health and becomes resentful toward him merely because he does not ask her how she is feeling and how she is handling everything.
Resentment between a child and parent could stem from a teenager always being told “no” when they ask to go spend the night at a friend’s house or go to a party without an explanation, or it becomes another lecture from the parent. The teenager assumes that the parent never wants them to do anything fun and that tiny ounce of frustration quickly turns into an emotional tornado waiting to implode.
Assumptions can be the emotional fire-starter of a relationship. Assumptions can lead to resentment that drives a wedge to the very core of any relationship in your life. It is one path that you do not want to begin trying to navigate because the self-made roadblocks will push your car closer and closer to the edge.
Our hearts are the center of everything – our relationships, our feelings, and our emotional health. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
5 Steps to Guard Your Heart from Resentment in Relationships
Here are five steps to guard and protect your heart from resentment in relationships:
1. Fill your heart and mind with God’s Word.
It was once said that “Resentment and bitterness cannot take root in a heart that is filled with God’s love and compassion.” To fight the dark thoughts that the enemy tries to place in our minds, we must arm ourselves with Scripture.
It is important to talk to God and pray when we are battling even a tiny ounce of jealousy. Ask God to remove those bitter feelings and replace them with compassion. Ask Him to replace any feelings of jealousy with a heart of service and a heart that is desperate to see others follow Him.
The Bible is the weapon we must keep at the ready when facing any obstacle or feeling of inadequacy. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
2. Do not stew on feelings of jealousy.
When a jealous thought or feeling emerges, it is important not to let it stew and simmer around in your brain. It is normal to have feelings of jealousy, but like a seed that is desperate for water so it can grow and thrive, jealousy is not a seed we want to water.
Jealous feelings are the beginning of a very slippery slope. Cut those negative feelings off when you can and do not water these dangerous thoughts by continuing to give them space in your heart and mind.
3. Work on your interpersonal skills.
Go out of your way to have conversations. People often become resentful because they make assumptions. A teen might assume their parent never wants them to have fun.
A wife might assume her husband does not think she deserves a mental break. An employee might assume they are not doing enough to earn their boss’s favor. The truth is, these are often assumptions that stem from poor communication.
Use these opportunities to ask questions, start conversations, or get to know someone better. Teens and parents can have productive and life-changing conversations if they delve deeper. Husbands and wives can develop a deeper intimacy if they ask questions.
4. Work on your communication tactics.
Be fully engaged in the conversation. Body language is an overlooked element in relationships. We quickly become angry in a conversation because we make assumptions and let those assumptions escalate and interfere with our communication skills.
We assume that our spouse does not care about our feelings, so we raise our voice or ignore them. We assume our friend does not care about our infertility and we let it affect our happiness for the good things happening in their life.
It is important to work on our authenticity in relationships and to take time to pause and read our own body language. If your body language in a conversation was the only form of communication you had, what story would it tell?
It is a good reminder that our thoughts often affect every ounce of our heart, mind, and body. Take time to practice active listening skills to ensure that you are fully listening in the conversations that are escalating. Repeat back what the other person is saying to ensure you are fully hearing and understanding them.
We often have conversations in our minds that add or take away the context and content of conversations that are occurring. Slow the brain down, pause, listen, be actively engaged in every part of the conversation, then respond.
5. Learn the importance of empathy and embrace it.
Henri J.M. Nouwen said, “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
You will face heartache in relationships but being immersed in empathy and genuine compassion will change the way you deal with those tiny seeds of jealousy and resentment. Those tiny seeds of resentment in relationships can be used as an opportunity and invitation to love others more.
To meet them in their brokenness and hold their hand along that painful path they might be on. It could mean that your past hurts can be used as a learning opportunity to love others with all that is in you so they do not experience those same feelings of inadequacy someone else has made you feel.
“His grief he will not forget, but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
It is important to take those seeds of jealousy or bitterness that you feel and let them shape how you want to love other people. We cannot control how others treat us, but we can ask God to help us control how we respond and how we let it affect us. When someone wrongs us, we can show mercy. When it appears that someone does not care about us, we can love them as Christ loves us with a love that is not self-seeking.
If you are struggling with feelings of bitterness and resentment or feel that you need to work on your interpersonal communication skills, meeting with a professional counselor can help you learn effective communication techniques so that you do not head down the slippery slope of all that bitterness and resentment can bring.
Perhaps you are struggling to find the root of your prolonged feelings of jealousy toward someone – there is no shame in seeking the help of a counselor who can ask the right questions to dig deeper into those emotional heart wounds.
Scriptures to aid you in your journey:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10
“Talk to the Hand”, Courtesy of Obie Fernandez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The King is Dead”, Courtesy of Felix Mittermeier, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “En Garde!”, Micaela Parente, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Praying”, Courtesy of Marquise Kamanke, Unsplash.com, CC0 License