Whose Demise?

Sarah Jane flicked open the morning newspaper, trying to forget her conversation with Rachel the day before. Who does she think she is? Sarah Jane asked herself. She may be my best friend, but that doesn't mean she can criticize the way I raise my kids.

In Sarah Jane's innermost heart, she knew that Rachel's comment was correct. Praying with a child and talking with him about why a parent needed to discipline him was important. "But I'm not the praying and talking kind!" Sarah Jane whispered, excusing her actions--or rather, the lack of them. In resentment, she snapped the newspaper to a new page.

The print blurred before her eyes as she remembered a class she had sat in at church. The class leader had talked about resentment and how Cain did not master his bitterness against his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:4-7, NIV). He let resentment grow into anger, then anger into suppressed rage, and that rage expressed itself in murder. Cain killed his brother, Abel. Sarah Jane remembered God's curse on Cain (v. 11) and the mark God placed on him (v. 15). He lived under the shame of his evil deed for the rest of his life, even though he may have repented of his murderous act later in life.

Sarah Jane let the newspaper fall into her lap. "What do Cain and Abel have to do with Rachel's nosiness?" she asked herself aloud. "Let her keep her comments to herself!"

Suddenly, Sarah Jane remembered the passage of Scripture in her morning's Bible reading. She had read the story about David asking Nabal to provide some food for David's men (1 Samuel 25:1-38). Nabal had allowed his naturally surly temperament to flare out in angry insults toward David and his men. Had it not been for his wife's intervention, his whole household would have been killed.

Sarah Jane looked out the window thoughtfully, the newspaper rustling in her lap. "So," she said to herself, "the issue here is not Rachel's comment; she was right! The real issue is my resentment for what I thought was her interference." She adjusted her shoulders more comfortably into the back of the chair. "Well, I can't change the way I am made. I wasn't raised to talk things out." She raised the paper and began to read.

She found a favorite column on page three. As she read, she sat forward in her chair and her mouth fell open in amazement. She read that certain types of acid, if ingested, can kill a person almost instantly. Arsenic, however, when ingested in small doses in food can be taken without knowing it, but the effect will be the same in the end: death. The column ended, "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die" (Malachy McCourt, quoted by Alex Witchel in the New York Times).

"Mercy!" Sarah Jane exclaimed. "I'm just ticked! I don't want to kill anyone!" Then she remembered that the Bible talks about "the gall of bitterness" (Acts 8:23, KJV) and that we need to guard against any "bitter root" (Hebrews 12:15, NIV) springing up in our hearts.

She folded the newspaper and took down her Bible, opening it to Ephesians 4:31-32, and read, "Get rid of all bitterness, . . . anger . . . along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

"Forgive me, Lord," Sarah Jane prayed aloud.

If I hold onto resentment, whose demise will I incur?