What is resentment?

1) We have expectations. Expectations carry concepts of how we believe our life should develop. We fix firmly to these expectations.

2) Someone upsets our expectations by introducing something that challenges our concept, compelling us to face a new reality.

3) We are disappointed. Disappointment is friction between expectations and reality.

4) The fork in the road: Completely relinquish previous expectations and adjust to reality, or continue clinging and face reality only grudgingly and half-heartedly.

5) If the latter, anger develops from this disappointment. FYI: Anger is always a secondary emotion that is always preceded by something, the same way a volcanic eruption is always preceded by a seismic activity underneath the surface.

6) Resentment builds. Resentment is the persistence of a tenacious clinging which is tantamount to stubbornness. Resentment builds when the human being continues clinging and refuses to completely relinquish the expectation they previously carried and then totally adjust to the new reality. They face the new reality only grudgingly and half-heartedly, and truly believe what is best and better for their wellbeing and happiness is what can no longer occur. This quiet seismic activity breeds a subdued hostility that characterizes resentment.

So the root of resentment is simply disappointed expectations nourished by a refusal to wholeheartedly adjust and accept a new reality!

What is the solution?

Jesus long ago gave us guidance about “turning the other cheek” if we are slapped. Here is a biblical passage:

“And unto him that smitten thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also” (Luke 6:29).

But do we grasp what this means?

In my understanding, “slap” is a figurative rendering of experiences that manifest in our lives as an aid for our inner development. The “giver of the slap” represents the Law of Sowing and Reaping operating through our neighbors. The cheek symbolizes the orientation of our heart. Since we see experiences that challenge us as “evil” and “misfortune”, we typically resist anything uncomfortable and do not fully commit ourselves to inwardly learning the lesson. This leads to anger, resentment, etc. In our presumed victimhood, we resist and rebel against our “slap”(fate) of the moment, struggle against reality, and refuse to alter our narrative. So we feel oppressed and suffer.

But the call to “turn the other cheek” is not a license to pusillanimity and timidity, but a call to courage and boldness of heart, and to wholeheartedly embrace the lesson that the experience offers without any reservation. Reservation is any notion of “deserving better”, “this is not fair”, “I want this to end”, “why me”, “this shouldn’t be happening” etc. In any of these, we are not fully committed to the experience because we still give preference to our failed expectations. But only when we fully embrace the moment are we able to recognize what we need to inwardly change and do differently, i.e. what we need to sow to reap a different harvest. So the call to “turn the other cheek” is a call to fully embrace–with a cheerful heart and without rebellion–the experiences that manifest for us. It is a call to give up our broken expectations and fully face the new reality. He who strives to do this and humble himself to the wisdom of the rightness of the Law will grow stronger. For through his humble attitude of courageous acceptance he gives his whole heart to the moment, as did the penitent thief on the cross who hung bleeding next to Jesus over two thousand years ago! And for him too, the result will be the same…only over time and at the end of the course of many experiences.

For guidance on applying this, we need only see how Jesus reacted when faced with the thorns that human beings, in blind hostility, constantly threw on His path during the course of His Mission.

~Ikenna Q. Ezealah

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