The litany grows longer and more gut churning and heart wrenching by the day:
- Mass shootings (the Washington Post reports nearly 300 since January 1);
- Supreme Court decisions that leave millions of people reeling and afraid;
- Challenges around race and books and elections;
- Untamed inflation;
- War in Ukraine that could get even worse.
The list goes on and on and on. To the degree we want to take refuge under a rock for fear of what might come next. And as we know only too well, there are forces and voices – on all sides, that are ever more strident. Forces and voices that are filled with resentment – over someone or something; inviting – no, hectoring, us to join in. That resentment, which is coming from all sides, is like a narcotic that can take root in the psyche and morph and metastasize.
We are a culture that is becoming addicted to resentment, which, as many have described it, is drinking poison and expecting someone else to get sick.
There have been moments when I bask in resentment. Times when I applaud myself for being snarky and clever, almost always at someone else’s expense. I have a friend who, after having bathed in resentment for awhile, has said, “if I feel this good when I am miserable, think of how much better I will be when things get worse.”
Resentment is corrosive. Yet the issues in the expanding litany are real and require a response.
A response beyond resentment.
We can start with lament. Lament is not whining or complaining. It does not involve pointing fingers or ascribing blame. Lament is an acknowledgement that life is unfair, the world doesn’t work the way we think it should, and that people can be mean and cruel to each other. And that people suffer unnecessarily. Lament expresses sorrow, grief or regret.
There is a long history of lament, although much of it seems lost, or at least hidden in our resent-filled culture. It turns out that the Psalms express lament over loss and oppression and exploitation:
“Why are you so full of heaviness, oh my soul; and why are you so disquieted within me” (Psalm 42:6)
I have found that as offering lament with words or groans accompanied by pounding fists on the floor, can be a much-needed release. Lament doesn’t change the challenging circumstances; but it can – and in my case, does, change my relationship to them. Lament can help us be freed from resentment. So we can then engage in action.
And action is more effective if it is grounded in love which, under our present challenging circumstances, is an act of the will. Like lament, we need to work at love. But if we work at it, lament, along with love, can help us climb out of the chasm of resentment. Another friend has said that he is trying to learn to see people differently – not from his place of disagreement or resentment over the other person’s beliefs or choices, but As God sees the other person. With love.
It can make a difference.