Oh my, the other day I had a powerful conversation with my mother. We talked about the spiritual cancer called resentment. I, for years understood resentment, I even wrote about it in my book, but it was not until recently did I get a hold of what cultivates and grows resentment.
For me, where I have been vulnerable to resentment is being “nice” in the most inauthentic of ways. I thought my nice was showing grace, I thought my nice was loving, I now see that my nice was a form of manipulation to control situations. When nice is used to manipulate it soon transforms from nice to nasty.
When I was younger, there was a lot of abuse in my home, I would see tempers flare around me and in a space of fear, I would try to diffuse the situation, I turned to nice. When I would get beat, or when I would see my mother upset, I would apologize, I would speak in the kindest tone, I would say I was sorry – sorry for what? Who knows. All I knew was I wanted the tension to end, I wanted peace restored, and if “nice” got us there then I would do it. I became masterful at being nice.
Now as an adult, I see where there is space for me to practice nice and express love more authentically. A couple of days ago, I was at a retreat, a former friend was there, a friend who I find myself at an impasse with, like when I was younger, my typical mode of operation is to speak, to diffuse the situation and to restore peace (the same practices of a child). What that does is limit myself, and it limits others. To apologize as a child for poor adult behavior is to deflect responsibility – those same ways of being as an adult do the same thing: deflect responsibility. To love myself now is to pause, and ask if this act of kindness is done from authenticity or is it done in a space of manipulation. Each time I act in “nice” ways that are not authentic, I build more houses of resentment. I can’t afford to build anymore houses, because the more houses I build, the harder it becomes to forgive.
For someone, the nice is buying a car for a child you know deep down is not at a place to be responsible. For another, nice is smiling, offering a kind gesture to someone who has been limited (at best) in their ability to be kind to you. For someone else, its continuing to do acts of service for someone who cannot hold your kind deeds in gratitude. Whatever the “nice” might be, let us reflect on it honestly, take a deep breath, and before we extend that next salutation, put on that smile, or offer that helping hand, lets take a moment pause and ask where this nice is coming from – don’t build houses of resentment on land that was cultivated in the vulnerable space of an inauthentic nice.