The Antidote to Resentment & Contempt
If you see a good deal remarkable in me I see just as much remarkable in you.
Why, what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
I don’t read poetry very often because it’s just too … poetic … for me. But recently I’ve been reading Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for the first time, and I’m bowled over by his grandiose, generous philosophy.
He thinks so highly of himself! “The Song of Myself” is 1336 lines of complete self-love. And yet not one time ever does he set himself up as the center of the universe. On the contrary, he thinks just as highly of himself as of everyone else on the planet. According to Walt Whitman, every single person that exists is an absolute masterpiece.
That’s confident humility.
Confidence: Knowing that despite your flaws, you have awe-inspiring potential and capacity. As in, mind blowing!
Humility: Knowing everyone else does, too.
The stressful, festive, pressure-filled, glitter-covered, joyous end-of-year holiday season brings out both the best and the worst in people. Which is it for you? How do you handle difficult people and situations?
Does it cause you to see “a good deal remarkable” in the people you interact with? Like the coworker who’s phoning it in for the rest of the year while you bust your butt? The kid melting down in front of you at the store and the parent that is definitely not handling it very well? The client that’s barking at you on the phone when you should be at the office party down the hall clinking glasses with colleagues?
It’s easy to find remarkableness when someone goes out of their way to be kind, to build you up, to make your work easier, to remind you of your inestimable value. I hope you’re having loads of those experiences these days. Yet, can you still see a good deal remarkable when someone’s “good side” is turned away? Can you remember it still exists when it’s not front and center?
And what about yourself? Do you see “a good deal remarkable” in yourself? On your good days and your bad days, on your high days and your low days, do you still know you are remarkable? It doesn’t change, because it’s true simply because you exist.
I hope you know you are remarkable. Not only because it feels good, but because it’s so much easier to see it in others when you admit it in yourself. And when you see it in others, your communication towards them changes dramatically. You no longer sound whiny or condescending or impatient or offended. You sound open, authentic, and generous.
Because here’s the secret: The extent to which your value of others and your value of yourself is in balance is the extent to which your LIFE is in balance.
If you see others as more remarkable, more important, more worthy than yourself, you will give more than you receive, forgo establishing or enforcing boundaries, resist speaking up, grow in resentment, and burn out. (Sounds awful!)
If you see yourself as more remarkable, more important, more worthy than others, you will expect more than you deliver, trample on toes and feelings and egos, stifle the people you care about, develop emotional callouses, and lose touch with reality. (ALSO awful!)
Resentment and burnout are your subconscious’s way of saying, “It’s time to value and stand up for yourself!” Rage and contempt are a good sign you are devaluing what’s worthwhile in others. Don’t worry—most of the time, you’re probably near the middle of the road between those two extremes, but from time to time, you lean to one side or another. And, what’s really weird: you can also be at both ends of the spectrum at once.
Your emotions will tell you when it’s time for a perspective shift. The antidote to resentment and contempt is to acknowledge the value of human life—yours and everyone else’s.
Here’s to a joy-filled remainder of 2023 for you and yours, days in which you overflow with generosity toward others and also toward yourself.
As Walt Whitman says, “Great is life… Great are yourself and myself.”