Aaahhh, resentments. That kid who made fun of me for tucking my shirt in my underpants 45 years ago. I call him “that kid” because I don’t want to “out” him as an atrocious person all these years later, and he probably grew up into a perfectly lovely man. Or a ghoul…part of me wants him to be a ghoul. But trust me, I absolutely remember his name. Or that other kid, 5 years later who called me “Farmer John” because I wore a pair of overalls occasionally. He’s probably a nice man too or a ghoul. Probably a ghoul. But I absolutely remember his name too. I recite them both when I slide into resentment land. I pull my victimhood up to my chin like a cozy blanket, however ratty and threadbare.
Honestly, I am obsessed with neither one. But every once in a while, if I choose to revisit those old hurts they welcome me with open arms. In actuality, they were both pretty innocuous barbs. Strictly appearance-based. Not a comment on who I was (or am) as a person for sure. But they stung (sting). I was just another scared kid, trying to find my way. I didn’t want my shirt to become untucked. I thought overalls looked fun. I didn’t deserve scorn. The fact that I have a biting, sarcastic sense of humor doesn’t elude me, however. I have undoubtedly hurt plenty of feelings, inflicted plenty of scorn. But I think my hurt is different… Hypocrisy at it’s finest.
There’s a line in a book I’m fond of that says, “Resentments are the dubious luxury of normal men.” Dubious is defined as: “of doubtful promise or outcome.” Of questionable value. It’s like picking a scab. It doesn’t end well, rarely resulting in a positive outcome. I would still rather think of those kids as terrible people and myself as the innocent victim than acknowledge the truth. That truth being I am most assuredly on someone else’s resentment list. Probably lots of them. Kids can be mean, grown-ups can be worse. I can be worse.
But I can also be better. By remembering old hurts, I can acknowledge my failures as well, if I’m honest with myself. What can I change about what happened to me or what I’ve done? Nothing. The past is the past. But what can I do now? Everything. The change can start with me. I can attempt to be kind in all my actions. I say “attempt” because I fail at that regularly. But I keep trying, growing, evolving. I can show my kids the strength that is kindness. Even to those that are being unkind to us. Kindness wins every time.
Kindness, like gratitude, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more I give, the more I get. But kindness means I have to make myself vulnerable. That’s a rough word for me. I don’t like exposing my vulnerability. But we all have it, we’re all sensitive. If I am aware that everyone is sensitive, if I can understand where others are coming from I can do better, be kinder. The human condition is similar, no matter where you are, who you are.
The warmth of human compassion.
Beats the hell out of that ratty old resentment blanket…