It is more common to think of the side effects of medication or bad health choices than it is the side effects of sin. If you take a stimulant, then your thoughts are likely to race and you won’t sleep well. If you eat too much turkey at Thanksgiving, the opposite will happen: your mind will get droggy and you’ll take a long nap.
But sin also has side effects. While listening to a series of lectures on emotional intelligence, the professor made a point about resentment that I thought provided an excellent example of this. One of the “side effects” of resentment was what he called “transvaluation.”
Merriam-Webster defines the act of “transvaluation” as “to reevaluate especially on a basis that repudiates accepted standards.”
What does that mean? Let’s walk it through a few experiences of resentment.
Let’s say you struggled in school and began to resent “smart people.” The impact of that resentment would not stop at disliking those with higher GPA’s or those who enjoy reading. Soon you would begin to think things like, “Being smart isn’t everything. The most important things in life can’t be learned in a book. Those nerds don’t have a clue what life ‘in the real world’ is all about. It’s people like us who really ‘get’ what life is about.”
Or, let’s say you grew up poor and began to resent “rich people.” That resentment would impact your thinking and might sound like, “Having money makes you greedy and mean. Look at them in their nice cars and fancy clothes thinking they’re better than every one else. They make me sick. I hate everything about their way of life and what they stand for.”
Similar thought patterns emerge when we resent based on popularity, particular talents, politics, ethnicity, school rivalries, generational differences, music preferences, those in authority, and a myriad of other things.
What is going on? I’ll describe it in four steps.
- Resentment begins with identifying differences and feeling insecure about your trait. If we were humble, most often we would see that our insecurity need not define us or be hidden. It is likely our insecurity that makes us more socially awkward than our perceived weakness.
- Resentment then begins to divide life into “us” and “them.” We retreat to those who are “like us” and begin to love them because they’re like us. If they changed, we would resent them. We begin to feel fear toward “outsiders,” but this fear is usually masked as anger.
- Resentment uses this division to make your trait more than just good, it becomes ultimate. We make our particular deprivation a virtue, or our cardinal virtue. Soon this is all we see when we look at people because it’s all we care about.
- Resentment finally flips your values so that whatever you were insecure about and makes it a matter of pride. Now north has become south, left has become right, and light has become dark. Even if our insecurity was not about a moral matter (which is almost always the case), it begins to feel that way to us. We feel justified for condemning those who are different from us.
The problem is that we never see this “side effect” (what theologians call the noetic effects of sin – the way sin distorts our thinking), because we think this sin is just making us stronger and more confidant. In reality, it is taking our perceived weakness and not only making it our identity, but judging the world by it.
When we are confronted in this sin, it only feeds our dislike (maybe even hatred) for those who have the audacity to take “their side” and try to tell us we should be ashamed because we’re [insert derogatory term here: stupid, poor, young, etc…]. We respond to attempts at rescue by becoming more committed to our prison – as Matthew Henry said, “Bitterness is a sin that’s its own punishment.”
So I leave you with three questions and one passage: (1) What insecurities have you allowed to walk through these four steps? (2) Where are you in this four step progression? (3) Are you willing to accept the rescue that God offers from both your sin and its side effects? If your answer is yes, then begin by reading Ephesians 4:11-22 and see how completely God intends to remedy the sin of resentment and it effects.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Emotions” post which address other facets of this subject.