Today, while America observes another anniversary of 9/11, one might claim that the horrific terrorism came about, at least in part, due to anger and resentment of the perpetrators. The tragic destruction of lives and property demonstrated the dark power of resentment.
Resentment is basically repressed anger mixed with disgust, fear, self-pity, and disappointment. Some psychologists classify resentment as a secondary emotion that develops after real or perceived injury or insult. That emotion or feeling can devolve into obsessive thoughts and compulsion for revenge. Extreme manifestations of resentment appear as mayhem, murder, and terrorism. In other words, resentment run amok can destroy lives.
The objective of this short blog post is not to analyze the terrorism that took place on September 11, 2001; that has been and continues to take place elsewhere. For purposes of this post, memories of the 9/11 attack served to trigger a contemplation about the secondary emotion of resentment.
We’ve all harbored anger and resentment at various times of our lives. Certain people have caused us physical harm or emotional pain. Perhaps we were humiliated or unjustly treated. We indulged in over-evaluation and created a mental loop that kept the pain simmering over long stretches of time. In some people, resentment becomes a touchstone and an integral part of their identity. In effect, their mission is retribution. Therefore, it behooves us to defuse this deep-seated emotion.
Even if a person does not act upon resentment, the feelings linger as emotional and physical pain. The resentful person experiences muscle tension, headaches, anxiety, and other chronic pain–perhaps ulcers or problems with the digestive system. Resentment harms the victim while the victimizer possibly goes about life contented and satisfied. Many times, resentment manifests as violent revenge, which is the seed for resentment in the other party. The mutual resentments escalate into rivalries, feuds, and warfare. Once resentments spiral down into this realm, they are difficult to resolve. They usually fuel more resentments.
As I contemplate 9/11 and the current state of affairs internationally and domestically, I realize how greatly our attitudes and what we harbor in our hearts affect how we experience life. There are plenty of folks who harbor anger, bitterness, and resentment. They view the world as an evil, uncaring place.
Resentment is easily created when one side benefits more than the other. Although the victor might reap great results and satisfaction, the appearance of success eventually breeds distrust, dislike, and resentment in the other party. This fosters the endless cycle of retaliation and counter retaliation. We see this happen between organized sports teams and their fans. On the international scene, the retaliatory cycle results in terrorism by one or both parties then frequently devolves into all-out war.
We know that anger and resentment are harmful and toxic, yet we are prone to experience them. Anger generally occurs due to an action in the present. Resentment is the cultivation and harboring of past anger. One famous, often-repeated truism is, that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
One way out of the resentment cycle is forgiveness. It’s natural to wish for the forgiveness of one’s transgressors, yet we are too often reluctant to forgive them. In reality, it’s up to us to forgive, not forget. Then the healing begins. This is something to ponder today on 9/11/21.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Roman historian and politician, Publius Cornelius Tacitus. “To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.”