by Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti
I’ve been working on my resentments lately. Once upon a time, I considered myself a very forgiving type of person. Then I had kids. It wasn’t the kids I resented (…except when I did). It was the people who upset/endangered/annoyed my children. Motherhood allowed my inner Resent-a-saurus out. Big time. I resented anyone engaged in the following activities:
Driving too fast along residential roads, thus potentially endangering my children at some future point when I wouldn’t be around to hover protectively and shout at the long-departed driver.
Anyone speaking to my children in a rude manner.
Any stranger touching or nearly touching one of my children.
Any friend failing to express the desire to hold (therefore touch) my children when they were infants.
Anyone who gave birth to a child who treated one of my children in a rude manner
Anyone who got disproportionately upset with my children when they (my own child) spoke in a rude manner. After all, they’re just kids…
Do you see the rich irony here? Hypocrisy it seems, rather than forgiveness, is my middle name. Sigh.
I’ve been examining the connection between resentment and interpersonal violence. Why? Because when we feel resentful, we indulge in self pity and then give ourselves permission to behave in destructive ways.
Resentment = Self Pity = Bad Behavior
This is not to say we should ignore violations to our basic right to physical and emotional safety. Anger (the infancy of resentment) can be a wonderful source of boundary-making instruction.
But if we get real honest with ourselves, the stuff we stew in resentment about is often a pretty interesting reveal of our own character flaws. We indulge the kind of out-of-proportion reactions that are easy to spot in others and much harder to spot in ourselves.
There’s a terrible but poignant joke about domestic violence:
Q: What do ten thousand abused women have in common?
A: They shouldn’t have burned the toast.
Abusers give themselves permission hurt others because they actually think like this! Their resentment over the imagined or actual infraction they think their partners committed fuels their outrage and then turns into physical abuse.
Obviously there is a vast continuum here and—thankfully–most of us do not fall on the felony-offense side of things.
For myself, I’m trying to be a better observer of my own resentment so that I can catch it earlier, talk back to it, and ultimately become a better person.
- The Power of Releasing Resentments: A Holiday and New Year’s Gift to Yourself and Others (psychologytoday.com)
- Where There Is No Forgiveness (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Domestic Violence (brighthub.com)
- The Signs of Domestic Violence (everydayhealth.com)