“When people withdraw love from us, we might development resentment. After all, we do not deserve unfair treatment and we do require love, not from all but at least from some. Resentment occurs when anger not only comes to visit, but sits down in our hearts, takes off its stinky shoes, and makes itself too much at-home in our hearts. After awhile, we do not know how to ask it to leave. While some anger might be good, persistent and intensive anger that is resentment is not healthy. It can distort in the short-run how we think (as we dwell on the negative), what we think (as we have specific condemning thoughts), and how we act (reducing our will to act in a morally good way).”
Excerpt (Chapter 1) from the book, The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, by Dr. Robert Enright, Ph.D.
Resentment is like rust. It starts slowly and is so corrosive. I think it is one of the most destructive and subtle emotions. We have to use the rust-remover of forgiveness or else we are in big trouble. The world needs to understand if we are to have peace in hearts and peace in societies.
But don’t you think that there is a place for resentment in this life? If someone is pushing us around, a little resentment pointed his way is likely to get him to back off. Maybe resentment is a kind of protection for us, a defense against others’ unrelenting unfairness toward us. Should we be dismissing resentment so quickly?
Chris, don’t you think that there are other ways of getting the other’s attention than resentment? What about standing for and asking for fairness from them? Don’t you think that if resentment is your primary way of solving problems that it can spill over to become excessive?
Josh, I am not talking about resentment alone. I am saying that it can be part of an overall response. Isn’t a little vindictiveness protective? It backs the other person off.
Question for you, Chris. Suppose you had to dig a hole 6 feet deep into hard, rocky turf. What would you rather use, your hands or a really good shovel? Resentment is a poor tool for digging oneself out of a difficult situation. The striving for justice is a good tool. Why use a bad tool in a difficult situation?
But, aren’t we all resentful from time to time? Might evolution have selected for this? If so, it can’t be all bad, right?
You are mixing your philosophical anthropologies, Chris. If man is an evolved being only, then resentment cannot be morally good in the ethical sense. It can be adaptive or preferred or selected, but not good. If man is made in the image and likeness of God, then resentment is a vice to be overcome, not a virtue to be embraced. Either way, we cannot talk of resentment as morally good.
Samantha, what about the philosophy of pragmatism here? That is where I am coming from. Resentment works in keeping the other from further harm. If it works to effect a good, and keeping him away when he is behaving badly is good, then we can call resentment in this context a moral good.
Chris, surely you do not want to bring out of the basement that worn-out view that the ends justify the means. A bad means is no excuse for moving ahead with your plan to impose resentment. Resentment is no virtue precisely because it can get out of hand quickly. Feeling deep anger at a person, which is what resentment is, is no guarantee that one will stay in full control while confronting the other.
Resentment is a poison. The more we drink it in the more unhealthy we become. We must remember that the enemy wants us to be poisoned and if we can do it to ourselves, all the better for the enemy, right? After all, he does not have to then raise a finger to hurt us as we hurt ourselves.
I see persistent resentment as a kind of addiction. People get addicted to the adrenaline rush. After a while they need this “drug” to keep them going, but like any stimulant, too much of it eventually exhausts us.