Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Premeditated Resentments

A friend recently told me how disappointed and angry she'd felt when a group leader made crass and hurtful statements to her and others in the group. This is a small organization aimed at helping people feel better and live better than they did the day or week before. "Crass and hurtful" are not the norm there. My friend felt betrayed by the leader's words and attitudes.

I definitely know how it feels to be disappointed by someone in a position of authority. I've felt similar shock, hurt, confusion and righteous outrage. He should know better! How can she say that?! He shouldn't do that.

However, I believe "should" is a useless word and approach. Although it seems natural to want our leaders to be all-wise, kind and in control, we know that's not always how it is. Whether we're talking about a parent who abuses a child, a politician who dips into the money bags, or a teacher who can't teach, it's just not helpful to throw around our "shoulds." They get in the way of our own peace of mind, and they sure don't add to the other person's desire to improve.

Another friend once told me, "Expectations are premeditated resentments." That makes sense to me, so instead of stuffing resentments into my emotional backpack, I aim for realistic optimism with others. I can't control them or fix them, even though sometimes I wish I could. Therefore, it helps if I'm clear about what I'm looking for without feeling bent out of shape if I don't get it.

When I meet with unexpected disappointment, like my friend did recently, I still have the choice about how much, if any, resentment I want to carry about it. I might have an emotional reaction at first, but I don't have to be ruled by my emotions. I might speak up about it, or I might decide to walk away. Either way, I can get rid of my resentments as soon as possible.

Do I manage this all the time? Definitely not. Am I getting better at it? Yes, definitely. A saying I believe in is Practice Makes Better. Never mind trying to be perfect. But, I can certainly get better at something, even if I never get perfect at it. That's a peaceful and responsible approach to life that works for me.

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