By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

The Unexpected Cure for Resentment

I feel perpetually tired these days. Tired in my parenthood, tired of holding down the fort while my husband travels around the world for business, tired in the fledgling career I’m still trying to build. My best efforts keep getting poured out, and I will them to fall like rich nourishment in my toddler’s life, my marriage, my profession. But most of the time I see little, if any, growth. Instead I feel myself straining just to maintain the status quo.
Underneath that tiredness is something else: a little seed, planted years ago during a particularly challenging season. Watered by loneliness here, fed by discouragement there. It morphs each week — sometimes greater, sometimes smaller, sometimes un-nameable. But still it remains, lodged deep in my spirit: resentment.
Resentment, I’ve noticed, flares up when things don’t go the way I want them to — and I can find a way to blame someone else. When my husband spends far more time working than I would prefer, leaving me to bear the brunt of the housework and childcare alone. When my toddler demands my full attention and doesn’t allow me to accomplish more urgent and important things. When I send out pitches and queries and book proposals, and I only hear the resounding silence of rejection. At times I feel as if others are steering the ship of my life, and all I can do is clutch the nearest handhold and pray that I don’t fall overboard.
Some days I feel powerless, robbed of agency. This isn’t the way it should be for hardworking, well-intentioned people, a voice inside me whispers furiously. My life path should not be determined by the whims of others. 
And resentment smolders.
I know this isn’t a godly response, particularly because I’ve become too familiar with the other ugly emotions that resentment can spawn: envy, anger, anxiety, despair. I look at others’ lives and wish that my family life and career resembled theirs more. I see only what I lack, and this paralyzes me. 
Recently I asked a wise friend, a marriage-family therapist, about how to avoid feelings of resentment even when my day-to-day seems full of sacrifice and fruitless labor.
He paused for a moment before saying slowly, “Curiosity and wonder.”
I had anticipated he would say something like gratitude or faith or community — all things I have relied on in the past, to varying degrees of success, to blunt my resentment. Bewildered, I asked, “What do you mean?”
“Resentment is the opposite of curiosity,” he explained. “It’s when you’re not open to the possibility that God might have other things in store for you.”
In that moment I had trouble wrapping my mind around his words. But my soul knew he was speaking truth.
“Resentment is a choice,” he told me gently.
For years I had assumed my resentment came out of being stuck, out of having my options narrowed for me by other people. Now I can see a fine but essential distinction: the source of my resentment was feeling stuck and feeling that my options had been narrowed. Yet those feelings weren’t necessarily a reflection of my reality. I had been so myopically focused on the many nos I heard that I had forgotten to keep my eyes up, to listen and watch for the opportunities that God was bringing my way. I had neglected the possibility that my life circumstances are not limits but signposts pointing me to a new, God-given path of unexpected wonders.
In all honesty, it has taken a surprising amount of energy to maintain this level of resentment. That tiredness I’ve been experiencing is not a result of everything I’ve been doing, but is actually a soul-level weariness from my attempts to hold hope, faith, and opportunity at arm’s length. I do not have to feel resentful. I do not have to choose resentment. I may sometimes feel powerless in other areas of my life, but this does not need to be one of them. 
I find hope in knowing that our God is a God who never gets stuck. There are no circumstances, no limiting of options, no amount of rejections that God can’t work with. He offers me an abundance of opportunities — each as meaningful as the last, most probably not what I expected — so long as I am willing to see his outstretched hand and receive.
These days my daily grind remains much the same. My toddler still demands far more than I know how to give; my husband still works too much; I still haven’t gotten that big publisher’s affirmation. In some ways life feels like the same-old, same-old. But that seed of resentment is slowly being dislodged as I seek a greater sense of curiosity and wonder, asking God each day: What more do you have in store for me this season? 
About the Author
Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is a writer and leader whose work with various nonprofits, social enterprises, and faith-based organizations has given her opportunity to engage with a broad range of social issues toward solutions in the areas of homelessness, affordable housing, energy access, youth leadership, HIV/AIDS, and international development. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her social entrepreneur husband and two young sons.
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