Tag Archive: resentment


AMDG

There is currently a lot of debate about how toxic parts of the internet are becoming. Whether it’s disinformation campaigns, ‘Troll Farms’ or data being ‘mined’ and exploited.  As important as all these things are there is something more fundamentally dystopian that I am concerned about – we seem to be raising a generation who are not being taught how to forgive and move on.  Until the internet learns how to forget it cannot forgive. We have a generation who are being encouraged to put all their private lives online, who are becoming emotionally dependent on ‘how many followers you have’ or ‘how many likes you have got’.  This is not an emotionally resilient generation.  So when they make mistakes, which they inevitably will, rather than being supported by loving parents (which I was) they are being publically shamed by their peers.  Generalisations of course…. there are always exceptions but I think if you spot a digitally wise teenager you are spotting a future leader.  Many of their peers are in danger of growing up to be neurotic, emotional control freaks who are both excessively permissive and also harshly puritanical.

How important it is and how difficult it is to let things go.  Resentment can act like a snake that coils around your heart and slowly squeezes so that a heart of flesh becomes a heart of stone.  Resentment is the opposite of gratitude – it tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. Gratitude receives the unfolding of life as a constant gift and has the renewing and refreshing quality of a gurgling mountain stream. Resentment wraps us up in darkness and our memories stagnate and become distorted.

This is why, when it is appropriate and we are ready, we need the grace of forgetting in order to forgive and let go. However, the internet is in danger of becoming an engine of resentment. In the UK there has been a succession of stories where people who have broken through to a high profile role have suddenly been brought low because of something they said on the Internet when they were younger and they should have known better. Immature opinions and angry outbursts come back to haunt people.  So someone in their late 20’s who works hard and is talented, gets a high profile job and then has to endure a media tornado of shaming because of something they said online when they were 16 and suddenly lose their job.  Online shaming has seen the unwelcome re-emergence of the destructive phenomena of public shaming.

There was an important ruling in the EU for the ‘right to be forgotten’ in 2012.   This allowed individuals to request that their names were removed from search engines, allowing EU citizens to  “determine the development of their life in an autonomous way, without being perpetually or periodically stigmatized as a consequence of a specific action performed in the past.”  In this age of the ‘techlash’ and a new interest in ‘digital-parenting’, I often talk to students about how important it is to clean up your digital footprint. Their Facebook timeline is of much more interest to prospective employers than their CV’s.

All in all, it is becoming a tougher climate in which to promote the much-needed process of reconciliation.

AMDG

1102014686_univ_cnt_5_xlI have been thinking a lot about Pope Francis’s ‘Eldest Son Problem’.  If you remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the elder brother who has worked hard and kept the rules all the time, seethes with resentment as the dissolute younger brother is forgiven and embraced by the father.  In fact, his resentment at the Father (God’s) unlimited mercy and forgiveness stops him from going in and enjoying the banquet.  Francis is experiencing a similar type resentment from a sizeable group – particularly in The States.  Often an elite of some type or other, who seems to resent the popularity of Pope Francis outside of the borders of the church.  It’s as if they don’t want the wrong type of people included in ‘their church’ which, from the outside, has started to resemble an exclusive and comfortable country club. They can seem to dominate the English-Language-Catholic-Blogosphere and so they appear to be many, but this is an exaggeration – what they are doing is creating an ‘echo chamber’  and they are not representative of most Catholics.

private-club-members-only-sign-k-0249_grnrevFrancis’ inspiring model of the ‘field hospital church’ that gets out there in the middle of the messiness of life, that tends wounds and listens to those hurting, is very threatening to some people, even if it is close to Jesus’s vision.  So an alternative ecclesiology is at play – rather than the field hospital church it is the ‘officers mess‘ church. They create an elitist Catholicism,  have an ideological spin on history, often use the labels of tradition and orthodoxy  as weapons  and don’t seem to take into account the reality of many peoples messy lives. Creating a virtual gated community, their criticisms of Francis are out in the open, relentless and already they are splintering (always a sign of the bad spirit).  What worries me is the effect that these blogs are having on some of my students, perhaps even on some of our bishops.  The less you are pastorally engaged – the more tempting it is to live in these echo chambers in order to feel good about your Catholic Identity.

ddeb78bb63620d00e54880ddb8b12536 So is their a solution?  How do we get the Elder Brother to join the banquet? Or even more worrying,  how do we bring these dissenters along with us?  Richard Rohr thinks we can learn something from the Japanese here,  and how they discharged soldiers.  After the defeat in the Second World War, many soldiers were not fit to return to their communities. Their identity for so long was to be a loyal soldier for their country and now they needed a broader identity. So some very wise villages created a public ceremony where they were welcomed back and praised effusively for what they had done.  The community realised that they needed to move on  so they created this ritual for closure and transition for ex-soldiers to return to civilization.  After the praise and thanksgiving, an elder would stand and declare ‘The war is now over – this community needs you to let go to what has served you until now, we need you to return as a man, a citizen and something more than a soldier.’

Maybe the Pope needs to do the same with some of our culture-warriors that are finding it difficult to move with him.