Earlier today, an unpleasant memory came up for me around the Thanksgiving holiday. Years ago, I had taken my mother out to dinner at an upscale restaurant. She was elderly, disabled, very overweight, and, seeing as she was widowed and living on Social Security, not particularly well dressed. I remember the looks the fancy suburban clientele gave her, and their stage-whispered remarks among themselves, and the deep anger and resentment I felt towards them; what gave those people the right to look down on someone less fortunate?
As this memory came to mind today, I also remembered and even viscerally felt the reaction I'd experienced at the time. It was upsetting me, so I decided to take a closer look. I asked myself, "What would I have to be believing if I were to be as nasty and snobbish as I perceived these people to be?" And what I came up with was this: the only reason anyone would resent the presence of someone like my mother is fear. How terrified those women must have been to encounter, in their glitzy sanctuary, the kind of person they would never want to become. What a scary reminder that circumstances can change and they might have seen their future and frightened themselves with it.
For the first time in close to 15 years, I felt compassion for them. And gratitude for my own hard-won clarity. Yes, it was hard-won. The work of self-inquiry is simple, but it is not easy. However, living with the burden of resentment has always been worse, so I invite you to this practice in order that you may experience the joy and peace of the season.
©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.