I know a guy, I'll call "Mike" (not his real name) who I really respect, probably more than he knows.
We were talking and he brought up that he was able to get a real handle on his personal weaknesses by looking at his resentments. Every resentment was a key to a personal weakness.
Now if you've read Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box
by Arbinger Institute or The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict the idea of resentments being a guide to where you have gone wrong is not new to you.
But about the same time, I had a real wake-up call when I asked for some feedback on a short essay I wrote on how to prevail with those above you in a religious hierarchy (back in 1996 or before). I was trying to suggest spiritual tools to use in religious conflicts. I've always thought about reworking it.
The response I got was "gee, so the real problem is that we are defective" -- or words to that effect. The reader got the message that I was blaming them for having an issue.
That made me realize that while reflecting on resentments is fine if you are brilliant and competent like "Mike" -- if you are overwhelmed and feeling mundane that sort of advice comes across as "I've been ground down by life, and now it is my fault too if I feel hurt because of it."
I know, I know, the Al Anon mantra that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die. I know, resentment binds people together in chains of co-dependency. But resentment is also what the powerless feel when they've been wronged and can't do anything about it.
I've been reflecting on this because I know people who are powerless. Not people who have transitory feelings, or who aren't as privileged as they would like (the type who "oh Lord won't you give me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends" was written about). But people for whom getting a job as a greeter at a Wal-Mart is a real step up, who have been ground down and ground up by life.
It is hard for people in those circumstances to find voice.
It is one thing for a professor friend of Chauncey Riddle (a BYU professor of philosophy who I admire) to spend seven years praying an hour a day to get an answer from God. It was great advice when Dr. Riddle passed that along to freshmen in college as a guide. Or for Alma to have the Church gather together to fast and pray for his son, Alma the Younger.
But what if I'm Anne Without Gables, or starving adjunct with a problem? A harried mother with children and without five minutes to call her own, not an hour or more a day to pray?
I'm not sure what advice to give them on how to seek spiritual guidance and help with religious problems. What would you suggest? If you are privileged, I can give you lots of suggestions. But you probably don't need them. But what if you are not? What advice is there to give?
I've been struggling with variations on that, ever since reading of some problems Annegb had. It was reflecting on what Mike said (which was very, very valuable to me) that made me realize I still don't have an answer to what advice to give the dispossessed that isn't as likely to feel like "blame the victim" or "it is really your fault" than to help them find a voice and prevail.
Which is why I'd appreciate thoughts from readers.