Greetings All, Welcome to the podcast “Close to the Bone.” I’m Carl Vreeland.
This is episode #42, and it’s titled, “Resentment.”
So, what is a resentment? Well, Merriam Webster defines it as: a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury. And according to the Cambridge Dictionary, resentment means: a feeling of anger because you have been forced to accept something that you do not like.
Now, whether our displeasure is just or not, how does a resentment serve us? Well, anger is certainly an energy that can drive us to right a wrong, and to make what was unjust just. I think that’s relatively easy to see. Still, let’s break this down. Let’s ask ourselves some questions. What was the injustice? Was it personal? And how did affect us? What of anger, aggression, and the resentment itself? Is it healthy to live with a resentment? Is it necessary to have one in order to right a wrong? Is this the only way to fight an injustice, by way of anger and aggression, motivated by resentment? Well, I imagine many believe that to be so.
As for myself, resentment. . . well, I’ll let the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explain. “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.” Yes, for me that was the case. In fact, from personal experience, and from working with alcoholics, addicts, and angry, resentful folks who are dreadfully cynical and unhappy, I would say resentment is the worse sickness of the mind. I would also say that it’s the most destructive.
Behind every resentment, to one extent or another, lies fear, anger, aggression, jealously, bitterness, cynicism, hostility, and rage. Left unchecked and untreated a resentment can grow into hatred and often violence. A resentment can possess a person. Moreover, resentment only leads to more resentments. Just as anger only creates more anger. One can never be satisfied by righting a wrong, or destroying its object of resentment. Resentment is not a panacea, it’s a poison. And it only leads to ill-health, destruction, and death.
Back to the wrong or injustice. . . consider the call-out culture, cancel culture, and the so-called social justice warriors; what is their motivation? Is it to create better world? Is their approach restorative? It doesn’t seem so to me. On the contrary, their methods seem self-serving. They seem to be seeking attention, prestige, and revenge. Revenge, because life hasn’t gone their way. And they are afraid it never will. This is indicative of deep fear. And where there’s fear, there is anger.
And the other hand, let’s look at the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King. Indeed, Dr. King was a warrior, but a spiritual warrior. He was absent of anger, hatred, and bitterness. He didn’t seek revenge. He didn’t hope to destroy the country. No, he wished to reform it, make it better, and unite it. And he pursued this goal with compassion for all people; black, brown, red, yellow, and white. He wasn’t coming from a place of fear, anger, and hatred. No, he was coming from love, unlike the many social justice warriors, who come from anger, aggression, hostility, arrogance, self-righteousness, and revenge. Which are all red flags, and markers of fear and resentment. They are indicators of victimhood. And they are signs of a spiritual sickness.
The Civil Rights Movement was a non-violent movement. They studied and practiced non-harming, ahimsa, in accordance with the Yoga philosophy of India, practiced by Gandhi. As for the social justice warriors of today, they lack skills and knowledge. They are wild, frantic, panicked, and fearful. And most importantly they don’t know and understand the difference between retribution and reparation. The former inflicts harm, the latter brings healing.
Let’s face it, it’s easier to blame someone or something for all your troubles, heartache, disappointed, and perhaps mediocrity. It’s easy to assert that your failures are not your fault, that they are the fault of others. And so, in these cases, one feels that they must seek justice for this wrong. Yes, resentment often hides under the guise of justice. Whereas, it is simply a cover-up for revenge.
For sure, playing the victim is an easy way out. The hard way is taking responsibility for your sorrow and troubles. Look, even if your parents were the cause of your problems, even if you feel the government was unfair, how is being resentful going to help you, or anyone else for that matter? How is living with resentment and spreading hate going to help anyone. No doubt, victimhood is a spiritual disease.
Whether the wrong or injustice is real or imagined, which is more often the case, resentment, this feeling of anger and bitterness, destroys the body, mind, and soul. This victim mentality, this playing the blame-game, this feeling of being treated unfairly, and hence latching on to specific target like capitalism, religion, or God, leads to despair and ruin. It’s leads to nihilism. Which essentially means, to the one holding the resentment, that if life sucks, and my life sucks, then I’m going make your life suck.
The spiritual sickness starts with low self-esteem, which leads to self-loathing, which grows into self-hatred. Well, of course they want to tear it all down. But what these folks don’t realize is that everyone experiences being wronged, injustice, frustration, disappointed, and disillusionment; it’s a part of life. But what’s also a part of life is. . . well, maturing, growing, growing wiser, and frankly, growing up. Life is hard. Life doesn’t go as planned for anyone. Getting bitter about it doesn’t help you nor anyone else.
Societal change, that is, good societal change, happens incrementally, not overnight. It happens through patience, cooperation, civility, and compassion, not through vandalism, violence and annihilation. As Dr. King once said, “Violence begets violence; hatred begets hatred.” In America, we live among different cultures and religions. We can’t always have things our way, we live among other people who see the world differently than us. Of course, one who is self-righteous, sitting on their moral high-horse cannot see this, they can only see the world from their myopic, egocentric perspective. What’s more, they are unwilling to compromise. They want to control their environment. Essentially, they are playing God. Because they are incapable of admitting their powerlessness over people, places, and things, as they say in AA. They want things their way.
That being said, I was once this way. But it led to a miserable existence. Today, I accept what I am powerless over changing. A wise man once said, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” Here lies the major problem I see among not only alcoholics, but among today’s activists or justice warriors; acknowledging their powerlessness. As if it’s a bad thing. Yet, they foolishly see it as one. They cannot see that humility, humbleness, and hence, a knowing when one is powerless is a strength.
In recovery, in my sobriety, in the restoration of my sanity, in my awakened-ness, the Serenity Prayer has become my go-to. Whenever I feel stuck, frustrated, or overwhelmed, this prayer sets me free. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
There are things in life we are powerless over. For instance; someone wronging us, rejection, loss, sickness, injury, and death. We are all going get screwed by someone, lied to, and hurt. Such is life. Question is; why retaliate? Why hurt them back? Why drink the poison of anger and resentment?
Thinking about all this. . . the biggest tragedy of all about having this mentality, is that when one lives with resentment, one cannot experience true gratitude. It’s not accessible. And of course, the absence of gratitude means the absence of love and grace.
My suggestion is always the same; find a middle ground. Stop shouting, speak a little less, and listen more. Let go of anger. Be more understanding; we are all flawed. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes—all of us, including you. And so, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Well, I’ll leave it here. As always, thank you for listening.
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