Sunday 20 March 2022

Resurrection - Love versus Resentment, and the role of Forgiveness

What of us gets resurrected? 

The answer, I think, is essentially 'that of us which is love'. 

In other words, a person who has led a loving life will have plenty to resurrect (plenty from-which to re-create his immortal self); and by contrast, someone who is incapable of love, or has rejected it - cannot be resurrected, because there is nothing to resurrect. 

The 'opposite' of love - that sin which is most opposed to the essential-master virtue of love - seems to be 'resentment' (which is more usually called 'pride' - but I think resentment captures the essence better). 

Resentment cannot be carried into Heaven - so by repentance we must consent to its being stripped-away in the process of resurrection. 

But this means that every aspect of us which is dominated by resentment will be (must be) removed before we can enter Heaven. A Man who has, though his life, built up a mass of personal resentments, will therefore lose a great deal of himself in salvation. 

Hence the vital importance of forgiveness; because if we hold-onto a resentment directed against someone or some-institution; we are maiming our-selves now, and maiming the potential of our resurrected selves. 

But if we choose to discard this resentment (if we 'forgive') then there is more of us that can be resurrected - we will be a larger person after resurrection. 

Thus - the positive benefit from forgiveness is actually for the forgiver, not the forgiven

One who nurses his resentment (a 'resenter') is often operating under the spite-full (and demonic) belief (or fantasy) that his sustaining of resentment harms its subject - which harm he desires; and therefore he refuses to forgive. 

But at the worst extreme, the 'resenter' realizes that he cannot harm the subject of his resentment (either because they are in Heaven, or are no-more); and then a refusal to forgive becomes wholly negative, and necessarily spiritually self-harming. 

This is why resentment (or 'pride') is often regarded as the worst of all sins, and why it can be understood as the opposite of the Christian injunction to love. 

When indulged, when forgiveness is rejected; resentment can become the core of self-identity to the point where damnation is chosen.

Such is the situation of Satan; and such the incipient situation of those many Men for whom a resentment (and their own commensurate 'victim status') has been made their core value. 


William Wildblood said...

A brilliant insight. We often like to think that if we get to heaven the whole person gets to heaven but that is clearly impossible. So we may get resurrected but more or less of us gets resurrected depending on the parts that love and the parts that resent. Unfortunately, resentment is often seen (by the resenter at least) as a kind of virtue either because we are not allowing ourselves to be fooled or to be weak or because we are sticking to our guns and therefore it's seen as a kind of integrity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Forgiveness operates as spiritual anti-gravity in that it releases us from the pull of earthly matter.

Now, note to self. Practice what you preach!

Bruce Charlton said...

@William. Thanks!

As well as anti-individual resentment; it is surely significant that 'the left' has become more and more focused on building resentment-based movements as it became more wholly-evil. Nowadays, large numbers of people define-themselves in such terms, sometimes several at once; and thereby regard resentment as a virtue.

It used to be that English people were - for all our many other faults! - notably free from this kind of identity-resentment; but that has changed. Socialism, feminism, antiracism, sexual identity have found many converts who nurse their resentment, and make it self-definitional...

The backlash against Brexit revealed that a significant minority of the English have even developed a resentment against themselves!

Phil said...

"resentment against ourselves", eh?
I was thinking as I read this that while I tried to forgive what I see around us, I also have a lot of resentment against myself for various failings. This tends towards feelings of despair and hopelessness - a very bad combination. Forgiving oneself can be a cliche, but I think it applies here. In light of what you say, it is very important, too. Self respect - done correctly, as opposed to pride - is part of the answer, I'm sure. At any rate, this is well worth thinking about.

BSRK Aditya said...

One can tackle resentment by applying love (rather than generating love).

David Earle said...

This speaks volumes.

If you identify with your resentments, then you are engaged in an anti-theosis process of developing all the wrong aspects of yourself.

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."

If you make love your core value, rather than pride, resentment or other negative-identities, then you avoid wasting time on that which must eventually be discarded or grown-out-of.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I think it is important that Christians develop an explanation for forgiveness that is better (and truer) than the 'usual' one; which is along the lines that God will not forgive us unless we have already forgiven everyone. As if we 'bought' our own forgiveness from God. This common scheme gives a false impression of God's nature, and so may be harmful to believe.

Lucinda said...

I was thinking about how different I would feel about it if I made a robot who disobeyed, versus a child who disobeys. In the first case, I'd be frustrated with myself. In the second case, I'd hope they can learn, especially that they choose their future, proximate and long-term. In the case of a grown-child, I can see myself being glad my child had a willingness to have personal responsibility.

This is true for forgiveness too. It's not so much that anyone, even God, needs a person to forgive, but that a person can choose what he becomes, whether a victim in his story or something better.

For many people, forgiveness seems bound up with unhealthy "obedience" ideas that make it hard to own one's own choices, which will always lead to resentment. If someone is feeling bullied by the idea that they should forgive, they probably are not thinking about it right. Unfortunately, there will always be those willing to make use of such situations.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I have *often* found it impossible to discuss a person's self-destructive resentment, because of his/her reaction - which can become very extreme, very quickly.

The resenter seems to interpret any attempt to help him/her as excusing the resented, or taking sides against the resenter. Especially when the resentment is socially sanctioned and supported (as with feminism, class or race resentment) one can make a lifelong enemy in a few seconds.

Resentment is a really deep and serious sin - yet how seldom recognized as such, how often praised as a virtue?

Lucinda said...

"The resenter seems to interpret any attempt to help him/her as excusing the resented, or taking sides against the resenter."

This is one of the trickiest things to navigate with loved ones. Even saying nothing is interpreted as siding against the offended. Even worse is the proxy resentment many engage in as a matter of 'compassion'. We are expected to be proxy-resentful against straight white unpecked Fire-Nation men. There is some hope that someone suffering from a fairly simple personal resentment may see a personal gain from giving it up, forgiving. But when so many layers of 'compassion' resentments are built up and considered virtuous, the situation seems pretty dire.

I think because resentment is easy to experience as a virtue when it is carried by many.