Today’s weather makes me feel as if the ‘rainy season’ has started in earnest. Still we cant complain as the summer was exceptionally good.
The gospel at Mass reminded us of the two great commandments, the second of which is to love our neighbour as our self. One serious impediment to this is jealousy and resentment which is the subject of a recent article by Fr Ron Rolheiser (excerpt below).
I have great admiration for Fr Rolheiser but feel compelled to mention regularly that I disagree with a small minority of what he has to say. One example is where he appears to believe that forgiveness of sin can happen apart from the three pillars of authentic repentance. These are: sorrow for sin (like the woman with the “bad reputation” who shed tears of repentance over Jesus’ feet); a firm purpose of amendment (Jesus’ admonition to the woman caught in adultery “Go and sin no more”) and a good faith effort to make restitution for the wrong done where possible (Zaccheus who promises to make up for being a corrupt tax collector). Hopefully I’m not contradicting myself in stating this point…
Our world is full of resentment. Everyone, it seems, is bitter about something, and, of course, not without cause. Few are the persons who do not secretly nurse the feeling that they have been ignored, wounded, cheated, treated unfairly, and have drawn too many short straws in life; and so many of us feel that we have every right to protest our right to be resentful and unhappy. We’re not happy, but with good reason.
Yes, there’s always good reason to be resentful; but, and this is the point of this column, according to a number of insightful analysts, both old and new, we are rarely in touch with the real reason why we are so spontaneously bitter. For persons such as Thomas Aquinas, Soren Kierkegaard, Robert Moore, Gil Bailie, Robert Bly, and Richard Rohr, among others, the deep root of our resentment and unhappiness lies in our inability to admire, our inability to praise others, and our inability to give others and the world a simple gaze of admiration.
We’re a society that, for the most part, can’t admire. Admiration is, for us, a lost virtue. Indeed in the many circles today, both in the world and in the churches, admiration is seen as something juvenile and immature… Maturity and sophistication are identified today with the kind of intelligence, wit, and reticence, which don’t easily admire, which don’t easily compliment. Learning and maturity, we believe, need to be picking things apart, suspicious of others’ virtues, distrustful of their motives, on hyper-alert for hypocrisy, and articulating every reason not to admire. Such is the view today.
What we don’t admit is our own resentment. What we don’t admit, and never will admit, is how our need to cut down someone else is an infallible sign of our own jealousy and bad self-image. And what helps us in our denial is this: Cynicism and cold judgment make for a perfect camouflage; we don’t need to admire because we’re bright enough to see that there’s nothing really to admire. That, too often, is our sophisticated, unhappy state: We can no longer truly admire anybody. We can no longer truly praise anybody. We can no longer look at the world with any praise or admiration. Rather our gaze is perennially soured by resentment, cynicism, judgment, and jealousy.
We don’t compliment each other easily, or often, and this betrays a secret jealousy. It also reveals a genuine moral flaw in our lives. Thomas Aquinas one submitted that to withhold a compliment from someone who deserves it is a sin because we are withholding from him or her some of the food that he or she needs to live. To not admire, to not praise, to not compliment, is not a sign of sophistication but a sign moral immaturity and personal insecurity. It is also one of the deeper reasons why we so often fill with bitter feelings of resentment and unhappiness. Why do we so often feel bitter and resentful? We fill with resentment for many reasons, though, not least, because we have lost the virtues of admiration and praise.
Jon’s effort to admire praise Garfield aren’t mounting to much…!