This morning on my daily walk, I finally listened to the March 31 installment of the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast. The young man, Jacob, (a seminarian) who joined Father John (a regular host for years) did a great job telling the audience about Max Scheler and ressentiment.
Ressentiment, basically, has to do with a deep down hatred for virtues which we cannot attain. We see in others’ values to which we would aspire, but when we find them difficult or seemingly impossible to obtain, we begin to hate the person who embodies those virtues.
Virtue inversion is part of ressentiment. Then we see good becoming bad, or maybe kindness being seen as malevolence, and lots more. Pick any virtue. The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “The sun which warms the plant can under other conditions also wither it. The rain which nourishes the flower can under other conditions rot it. The same sun shines upon mud that shines upon wax. It hardens the mud but softens the wax. The difference is not in the sun, but in that upon which it shines.” You can see the problem then, with a human soul, in this analogy, I think.
Of course, books and books have been written on ressentiment and the podcast itself is over 40 mintutes long (with the required 10 minutes of banter at the beginning and ‘shout outs’ at the end!), and Jacob and Father John barely scratch the surface of the topic. But it’s a very good start.
It helped me to understand a lot about the victimhood mentality that is raging in our society today. It helped me to understand how the person who views him or herself as a ‘victim’ yearns for the power to make everyone else give in to the ‘victim’ demands.
As these two hosts describe it, “Victimhood can be used as a platform for power.” There are some definite Nietzschean thoughts in the current culture. That is not a good thing, in my humble opinion. But the beautiful thing to remember is that “Gratitude is the antidote for resentment,” according to Father John.
Gratitude for what, you may well ask? For everything. Yes, I mean everything. All is gift. The person who is screeching at the top of her lungs that you are a hater and an oppressor must be loved. Just as Jesus loves her. The people who seem to have misused large sums of money in the name of social justice, we must love them, too. Just like Jesus. The people who demonize those they disagree with (happens daily from all sides), you love them.
You know what helps me is realizing that God is present in every created thing – person, animal, plant, microorganism. If He weren’t none of those things would exist. Love your brothers and sisters as the children of God they are. For God is there.
Love is sacrifice and also self-forgetting. We may not ask, “What about me and what I’ve got coming to me?” In dealing with any person, we need to start with love. And then, hopefully, we’ll get a calm dialogue/discussion/debate going. And as Jacob says in the podcast, we may well find out that we have things in common. We can at least agree that we are all human beings. So we have that in common. (I’m reminded of the Colin Raye song, “Really Not That Different.” The lyrics include, “I laugh, I love, I hope, I try. I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry.”) The Christian further believes that we are loved into being by a God who is Love. It begins there, with that truth.
Sadly, too many people don’t know that truth. And too many forget about the Truth in the heat of an argument or as they carry around their resentments, neglecting the commandment to love…
So then, as the erudite gentlemen in the podcast tell us, we need to pray. Pray for all who are lost, pray that they will find truth and goodness and beauty in the world. Pray to ask how we can help the lost to get there. Pray in repentance for the resentments we carry. And pray in thanksgiving for God’s mercy. And for all the gifts. They’re everywhere.
Those scared, angry people who don’t know what or Who they’re missing, need to know that, too. Tragically, people with this ressentiment can come to hate themselves as they become internally divided. Part of them hates that which they desire and part of them hates who they’ve become. It’s deep-seated and it’s not healthy, to put it mildly. It’s bad for the individual and for the culture as a whole. And, if we’re honest, I think all of us have a bit of this resentment inside us. I don’t like it. I want to change. God help me. Then maybe I can help others.
Here’s the link to the podcast because I can’t do the discussion justice. Start at 11:00 minutes if you want to skip the “banter.”
And here’s a song to remind us to love our neighbors (that’s everybody, including our enemies!) as ourselves! Yes, we need to love ourselves because each of us is a gift, too. YOU are a gift to the world. Yes, you!