There’s an additional side to the quasi-Shakespearian quote,
“Resentment is a fire that burns with more light than heat.”
And it’s an important side! And a side we rarely think about or engage with, despite, perhaps paradoxically, the impact it has on us. Sure, as we spoke about already, we can look at the quote through the lens of being productive and what leads to better outcomes. But the other side of it is what smacks us in the face every day: our experience of life within.
Because resentment, bitterness, malice, harshness, nastiness… well, turns out being in those states is just not pleasant. For sure, we may get that little charge that comes from being righteous*, but overall? It’s not great.
And it can be very hard to notice that! Just as we cease to notice how cold the lake is after we’ve been swimming in it for a few minutes, the lousy experience of the moments spent in resentment and spite and anger just becomes the water we’re swimming in when we do it more and more, day in and day out.
Doubly unfortunate is that, when this becomes the water level we float on, even great moments are dampened. When our baseline is a 1 or a 2, even an amazing +4 event only registers as a 6. And the reverse is worse, for a terrible -4 event really sends us into the negative doldrums. And when things are the status quo? Well, we and our experience float along at that not-all-that-pleasant-or-nice-feeling of a 1 or a 2.
That lowly experience becomes invisible to such a degree that when we are able to give up those harsh, automatic, already, always, consistent ways of being and begin breaking out of it/them for the first time, many (myself included!) describe the feeling in this manner: “Suddenly I felt good in a way I didn’t even know was missing. Or that even existed. Or that was even possible.”
Best of all, when we stop draining our lake with resentment et al, and as we begin to float along at a 7 or 8, those +4 events push us high into the lovely double digits. And those terrible -4 moments?** Amusingly they can’t even push us down to the level of our previous baseline.
When we bring mindfulness to our practice and give up (as in consciously, willingly, workingly, and ongoingly) our resentment and harshness, we gain access not only to a newfound effectiveness in what we authentically desire, but also to an enhanced experience of life where we can rise up, shine with vitality, experience joy, experience love and relatedness, soar high, and set forth with gusto.
* Something that, as a recovering righteousoholic, I am well familiar with…
** Which, nicely, with practice in mindfulness and equanimity, what used to be a -4 event may only register as a -2 event, further keeping our experience from crashing down. Which, triply nicely, also allows us to be more effective in resolving it more quickly!