I took care of my cousin’s son (was awarded emergency temporary custody). I took him to all his appointments, provided for him, did everything to get his SSI benefits back, raised him as my own with my SSA money. His mom decided she wanted him back and turned my life into a living hell. SSI said they couldn’t give me my money after finding he was disabled in my name, but they gave his mom his check after I gave him back to her. She even used him for the income tax season.
*Dear Readers: The Social Security Administration is a federal agency, and it administers SSI and SSA benefits. Social Security Income (SSI) is a form of federal welfare for persons who have disabilities or are elderly. No work history is required to receive SSI. Social Security benefits (SSA) are for retired workers, disabled workers, widow/ers of workers, or children of deceased or disabled workers. In all of these cases, a work history is required to build up credits. Disability payments can be made in the form of either SSI or SSA payments. You may draw from one or the other, but not both.
Thank you for writing to me. Initially, I had a difficult time discerning how to respond to you, because you didn’t ask me a question. But once I sat with what you wrote, I felt your hurt and anger, and I had some insight into what you are struggling with: a feeling of being wronged…a sense of injustice.
Given the facts as you presented them, it seems you genuinely cared about this boy, and were willing to step up and assume significant responsibility—a very honorable thing to do. You and he had a home together, and managed to provide for yourselves, in part with the joint benefits you received. You created and sustained a family.
The son you were caring for collected SSI, though you said “in your name.” It makes sense that if he is no longer in your home, the check “follows him” to his new residence. This is appropriate. Regarding claiming him on your taxes: I don’t know the details of your temporary custody agreement, so I cannot speak to this particular issue.
Nonetheless, I imagine you are feeling unappreciated, even used, and perhaps resentful of the fact that you are now financially compromised, given your benefits have been interrupted. Bring your records to the Social Security Administration office in your neighborhood, and speak with someone about the re-application process and how to present your case.
But as I suggested above, there’s a bigger issue here: How do we cope with being treated unfairly? How do we respond to injustice? How do we move past the pain? No one gets through life without feeling terribly wronged at one point or another, but the key is how we respond in those moments. We can choose peace, or we can get stuck in patterns of resenting—the choice is ours.
My hope for you (and for others) is that you find a way to move from anger (anger is just another word for pain) to peace, which is why I’m taking the opportunity to write about resentment, and its opposite, which is compassion. Compassion will always soften the edge of our pain, and in time, with practice, a compassionate outlook enables us to accept our circumstances with peace in our heart, even if those circumstances may be painful.
Resentment: What is it?
Resentment seems to have several components to it:
- Over-personalizing an incident
- Having a “victim” mindset
- Stubborn refusal to forgive
Over-personalizing an incident:
Our well-being increases as we separate from EGO consciousness and move into Spirit consciousness (Please see my sketch, as it will help to visualize what I am speaking about). Spirit consciousness is of God, EGO consciousness “Eases God Out” (I must credit AA for this particular interpretation). The very condition of being human is the condition of having this internal tension between EGO and Spirit, and it is our work to intuit our spiritual nature and to cooperate with that nature. When we don’t, we suffer all versions of suffering, which further serves to strengthen EGO.
What does this have to do with resentment?
Over-personalizing is always an expression of EGO, because we can’t personalize something unless we experience ourselves as separate from another. EGO wants you to think we are all separate, but Spirit knows we’re not. When we stand before another who has wronged us, and attach to the pain that comes from what s/he did to me, we position ourselves for resentment. Resentment demands amends, and seeks “justice” from the location of EGO, which will always cause more pain, not less.
EGO has zero interest in your practicing forgiveness and seeking justice with a peace filled heart. This is because forgiveness is a Spiritual act, and all things Spiritual threaten EGO. Even the slightest effort to stand in the shoes of the other, in an effort to soften a reaction, makes EGO uncomfortable, thus EGO goads you to stick your heels in the ground, swirl in righteous indignation, demand the wrongdoer acknowledge their error and your pain—and don’t let it go…whatever you do…don’t let it go…In this way, it stays “personal” and keeps you stuck.
Whatever is happening in our life, right now, deserves our humble attention. Humility is honest. Humility asks us to consider if perhaps we have created similar suffering for others. Humility requires us to acknowledge our own flaws, which allows us to be more patient with others, which nurtures compassion. There can be no compassion without a generous dose of humility. Resentment, however, resents humility, because resentment knows that humility leads to compassion, and compassion leads to forgiveness.
When we bring our loving eyes to any situation, even to the person who wronged us, we deepen our understanding of the situation, and we soften our condemnation of the other. In that way, we are positioned to create peace, rather than escalate harm.
Identifying as a victim:
Experiencing mal-treatment and injustice feels terrible, and it is normal to be angry and hurt and to even let that anger and hurt swallow you up for a bit—we’re human, and most of us have not mastered “compassion in the moment” like Jesus and Buddha. Nonetheless, our happiness and health depends on our learning to do it.
Resentment re-enforces victim status (I’m innocent, and “x” just happened to me, and I am helpless) and in that way, resentment serves as an excuse to not take responsibility for one’s life and the circumstances in one’s life. We are in charge of creating peace in our life, no matter the actions of others.
Resentment is like any other addictive behavior—it serves a purpose in the short term (in the case of resentment, the “holder” feels a sense of righteous indignation, which feels empowering) but in the long term, it is toxic, and will undermine one’s well-being.
We are all equally responsible for responding to all circumstances in our life with love, regardless of what anyone else does. But we are disabled from doing this if we position our self as a victim of circumstances. Victim energy diminishes us, further disconnects us from accessing our authentic power, and actually perpetuates the very energy of the injustice or harm that has manifested in one’s life.
Unwilling to forgive:
Many hold on to resentment as if it’s a life raft. Ironically, resentment is incredibly toxic and can undermine our physical well-being. In fact, Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, says resentment long held can eat away at the body and become the dis-ease we call cancer. But many of us cling nonetheless, and the thought process seems to be if I let go of my resentment, if I work to accept and move on, then s/he got away with it. I suffer and s/he just carries on. If you are having these thoughts, be grateful, because such thoughts are a strong indicator you’ve been taken hostage by your EGO, and now you’re free to respond to that signal with a “no thank you…I am going to choose peace…and health.”
Peace and health manifest as compassion is practiced.
Unless we are steeped in lessons of compassion growing up, it can be very difficult to practice compassion in our most painful of moments. For most of us, compassion must begin with a conscious decision. We look to the great teachers of compassion (Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, etc.) and we accept the invitation. Without the ability to practice compassion, we set ourselves up for chronic agitation, anger, and internal disturbance.
Compassion is nothing more than seeing the person in front of us with love. We do this when we quiet our EGO long enough to see that the person in front of us is as fragile as we are, because they are enduring the condition of being human just as we are. Compassion begins to happen naturally once we look out into the world with the “eyes of our Spirit” rather than the eyes of our EGO.
Compassion lends itself to acceptance of what is, so in this way, compassion is the opposite of resentment. Compassion pulls us away from our own self and presses us to experience the other, as the other experiences their life. Compassion is a higher calling—and it requires the harmed and hurting person to maintain accountability for their suffering, whereas resentment places blame.
All pain is an opportunity to spiritually evolve.
My dear friend, your very upsetting situation, and your willingness to reach out, gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts about compassion. I am grateful, in part because I was personally in need of the lesson (it has been said that we teach what we need to learn). I hope my words encourage you to reach for peace.
3 thoughts on “Moving Beyond Resentment: Finding Peace after Being Wronged”
Thanks Liz. This couldn’t be timed any more perfectly as I received some bad news that struck my “resentment chord” the same day you posted this blog. It helped me put some perspective to my situation. At this point, it’s still not totally resolved within me, but as time passes I find the feelings are settling in. It has caused me to take a more honest look at myself versus what others may see.
David, it was so kind of you to take the time to thank me for this column. I’ve returned to it a few times myself, because after all, we teach what we need to learn…all the very best to you.
As I ponder this post I am wrapped in the loving embrace of forgiveness and grace of God that comes with compassion which you so eloquently presented. I too struggle with finding peace and overcoming the dark force of resentment. I think it stems from a lack of perspective, understanding, and the presence of injustice.
While justice may never be served it is important to be able to move past injustices we have faced. To use them as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.
I love your description of the dimorphism of the Ego vs the Spirit. Some groups refer to the ego as the natural man, which is an enemy unto God or the spirit.
I believe that righteous indignation has it’s place in some scenarios and is not morally wrong.
‘The spirit of God like a fire is burning’