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The Damage From Long-term Resentment

Updated on April 13, 2018
lambservant profile image

Lori Colbo is an online media writer who's passion is writing on her Christian faith. Her other passion is being Nana to 12 grandchildren.


Definition of Resentment

- the strong and painful bitterness you feel when someone does something wrong to you, doesn’t have actual physical weight, but it feels very heavy and can last a long time. ~

Anatomy of Resentment

Show of hands - how many of you have ever struggled with or are currently struggling with unresolved resentments? Hmm, that's a lot of hands. I have my hand up high. In fact, the Lord showed me some time ago that I have had a stronghold in this area, a life long pattern (my adult life). He revealed this to me when I got so miserable it was affecting my whole life; my peace, my sleep, my health, and most importantly, my relationship with God. So I cried out to Him to relieve me. I was delivered. A one ton bolder of resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness that had been shackled to my heart and mind was released and I felt free. And now, I have to remember to fill my mind with God's word, to trust His love, and to love Him by wanting His will for my life and doing it. Obedience is not a word most people are fond of, but obedience is how we show our love for Him. I need to be watchful. It would be easy to let my guard down and slip into it again for some newfangled offense. I stay on my knees about it.

Inflamed by long standing resentment, people become bitter and unforgiving, as I had turned out to be. Resentment is a tool of Satan. He doesn't want us to have peace with God, peace within ourselves, nor peace in relationships. His lie is "What they did to you justifies your resentment. You have every right to be mad and how dare they? You better stay up all night rehearsing what you'd really like to say to them, what you'd really like to do to them, or what misfortune you'd like them to experience."

Resentment is vile poison that infiltrates and wrecks havoc on the mind, body, and spirit, not to mention the destruction of relationships. I chose the definition of resentment above because it is exactly how resentment feels to me. Strongly painful, full of bitterness, a heavy weight, and long lasting. I would also add tormenting.

Some elements of resentment would be:

  • Holding a grudge
  • Ruminating on revenge
  • Quiet continual seething (until you explode)
  • Rapid growth or snowball effect
  • Deeply rooted
  • Unrelenting
  • Sense of justification
  • Loss of sleep
  • Health issues
  • Spiritual brokenness.

There are many more where those came from. The ones I listed feel the truest for me.


Behavioral effects

If you are struggling with resentment and unforgiveness it's important to be aware of how it affects your behavior. Consider these:

  • Passive aggressive comments
  • Blaming and accusing
  • Silent treatment
  • Victim/Martyr drama
  • On/Off communication
  • Unkind comments
  • Angry outbursts
  • Talk about it to others instead of the offender
  • Arrogance and other negative attitudes
  • Try to turn others against offender
  • Pettiness
  • Overreaction
  • Threats
  • Violence
  • Murder (of the heart and literally)
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Increase in nicotine use
  • Withdrawal
  • Procrastination/avoidance

Again, the list could go on.

Angry and threatening.
Angry and threatening. | Source

Physical Effects

Long standing resentments and bitterness create a tremendous amount of stress which takes its toll on the body. Statistics say 75-90%of all doctor visits are for stress related ailments and complaints, and 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.1 Here's a list of symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleeplessness (including pillow punching and tossing and turning)
  • Diarreah/irritiable bowel
  • Reflux or GERD
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Loss or increase of appetite
  • Eating junk food
  • Teeth grinding
  • Skin problems
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety/Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Palpitations
  • Ear ringing
  • Diabetes/Low blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle aches
  • Viruses/infections
  • Low immune system
  • Auto immune diseases
  • Flare ups of already existing ailments
  • Impotence
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Death

I have experienced a number of things from the stress of resentment I am sure. Chief among them high blood pressure, minor stroke, teeth grinding, and more.

High  blood pressure can be caused by the stress of resentment and unforgiveness.
High blood pressure can be caused by the stress of resentment and unforgiveness. | Source

Quotes on the Damage of Resentment and Unforgiveness

Here are some good quotes on the damage of resentment and unforgiveness. Please leave me your own quote on forgiveness as you see and/or know it in the comments and I will put them in a callout to publish with this article.

“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat." ~ William Paul Young

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” ~ Nelson Mandela (This quote has been attributed to several people).

“People have to forgive... Because if we don't we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!” ~ C. JoyBell

"Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache, and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth." ~ Joan Lunden

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn't change the heart of others-- it only changes yours.” ~ Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It's Too Late

“With each opportunity before me, God presented me with a choice. I could accept His offerings, His wisdom, His grace. Or I could choose to hold onto the pain, the anger and the resentment a little longer.” ~ Sharon E. Rainey, Making a Pearl from the Grit of Life

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Which of these quotes has the most impact for you?

See results

Quotes on the Benefits of Forgiveness and Letting Go

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
C.S. Lewis

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
Mark Twain

Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.........Forgiveness does not excuse anything.........You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness......”
William Paul Young, The Shack

“The willingness to forgive is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity. It is one of the great virtues to which we all should aspire. Imagine a world filled with individuals willing both to apologize and to accept an apology. Is there any problem that could not be solved among people who possessed the humility and largeness of spirit and soul to do either -- or both -- when needed?”
Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes

Powerful sermon on forgiveness

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." ~ Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:14

How has resentment and unforgiveness affected you most?

See results

Unforgiveness cuts a swath of destruction through your life like a tornado across and Kansas wheat field."

— James McDonald
Unforgiveness cuts a swath of destruction through your life like a tornado..."
Unforgiveness cuts a swath of destruction through your life like a tornado..." | Source

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:13

Effects on Marriage

One of the imperatives for a good marriage is not go to bed angry, and to practice forgiveness. That can be very difficult in a marriage where one or both of the people are immature, selfish, abusive physically, emotionally, and/or psychologically, and a practice of infidelity. A spouse or partner may not deserve forgiveness in your mind, but it's not about the offending spouse getting what they deserve or not getting what they deserve; it's releasing the desire to hurt and get revenge; taking your hand off their throat because you are the one choking. Leave them to God, who will execute justice.

When a marriage ends in divorce, often, probably more often than not, there is hatred and a desire for revenge by one or both people as the divorce is in process. Those were likely present before the divorce. There becomes a constant volley of trying to hurt or get revenge. The children are deeply wounded by it. I'm not a marriage expert or counselor, believe me, but sadly, many divorces bring out the ugliness in people when they fight over stuff - furniture, money, any number of things and blame, blame blame, both or one side will not take responsibility for their side of the issues. They use the children as weapons in the battle, further traumatizing them.

Back in the 90s the movie War of the Roses came out. It starred Michael Douglas as Oliver Rose, and Kathleen Turner as his wife Barbara. She decides after a long marriage that she wants a divorce. Very quickly it got ugly. There was vile name calling, physical acts of violence, the most bizarre, heinous behaviors I can't even mention in all good conscience. It was meant to be a comedy, but it was pretty sick and twisted. Spoiler alert: The last scene in the movie is them hanging from a chandelier fighting like mad dogs and they fall to their death. I get it, this was a movie of extremes, but people can go berserk when they fight, seek revenge, and don't forgive.

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

― Ruth Bell Graham

Bitterness and unforgiveness in a marriage can lead to divorce.
Bitterness and unforgiveness in a marriage can lead to divorce. | Source
Forgiveness restores marriages.
Forgiveness restores marriages. | Source

Some people have been wronged severely. A child or spouse was murdered; a person sexually traumatized you or a loved one; a child is horribly abused by parents; bullies torment a child until he doesn't want to live anymore. For these people it is understandable that they feel there is no way they can, or there is no way they will forgive. They are daily in torment for years. The perpetrator may have been punished but it's not enough in the opinion of the victim. It's even harder when the perpetrator has gotten away with it. In these terrible, tragic situations it feel impossible to forgive. Years ago I was so bitter against God for not protecting from an trauma as a small child. I self-destructed just to get back at him. That didn't last too long. The rage was too scary and I repented. I was able to see then that God was with me at the time and much good has actually come out of it if you can believe it. I am grateful for the release. My prayer is that anyone who has been holding a grudge or resentment, one who is bitter and unforgiving to ask God to help you and be willing to open your mind and heart. It's important to note that forgiveness does not necessarily mean that you trust the person, or have a relationship with them if they are toxic. But you hand them over to God and let Him do justice. Pray for your enemy. It's hard to hate someone if you pray for them enough. It is very hard to do sometimes, but the freedom is unbelievable. Blessings to you as you let go and let God.


1The Effects of Stress on Your Body. WebMD Medical Reference. Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD, June 12, 2016. Viewed June 29, 2017

© 2018 Lori Colbo


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    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 5 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Well, Lori, that's about as thorough as you can get in one hub. The lists were great, too, and all-inclusive.Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a much needed and relevant topic.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 8 days ago from Pacific Northwest

      Dashing, I like your banking analogy. Thanks for stopping by.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 9 days ago

      Forgiveness for means choosing to let it go and no longer dwell on it. Naturally it doesn't mean one has to "forget" or reconcile just move on. When a bank {forgives a debt} it just means they've "written it off" and will no longer invest time and energy attempting to collect. It does not means they will turn around and offer the individual another loan! Life is filled with blessings and lessons.

      "Knowledge is being aware that fire can burn. Wisdom is remembering the blister." - Leo Tolstoy

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 9 days ago from Olympia, WA

      My biggest resentment was with myself. Once I learned to forgive myself, everything else fell into line.

    • threekeys profile image

      Threekeys 9 days ago from Australia

      Great covering of this difficult emotion. Its hard to deal wth.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 9 days ago from Pacific Northwest

      I'm glad you learned early Jackie, I'm a slow learner.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 9 days ago from The Beautiful South

      I learned at a very young age to not hold grudges and although it does not mean won't be hurt it does mean I won't dwell on it and let it fester. That hurts no one but me.

      Great article with proof!