Virtue And Resentment


In his book Love and Responsibility, Pope John Paul II notes that chastity is a virtue in need of rehabilitation and refers to Max Sheler’s concept of resentment —

“Resentment arises from an erroneous and distorted
sense of values. It is a lack of objectivity in judgment and evaluation,
and it has its origin in weakness of will. The fact is that attaining
or realizing a higher value demands a greater effort of will. So in
order to spare ourselves the effort, to excuse our failure to obtain
this value, we minimize its significance, deny it the respect which it
deserves, even see it as in some way evil, although objectivity requires
us to recognize that it is a good. Resentment possesses, as you can
see, the distinctive characteriatics of the cardinal sin called sloth.
St. Thomas defines sloth (aceida) as ‘a sadness arising from the fact
that the good is difficult. . . Resentment, however, does not stop at
this: it not only distorts the features of the good but devalues that
which rightly deserves respect, so that man need not struggle to raise
himself to the level of the true good, but can ‘light-heartedly’
recognize as good only what suits him. . . “

Lack of objectivity is manifest by an absence of honesty.  The resultant virtue is marked by subjectivity with no reference point, like shifting tectonic plates.  Stable sacrificial Christian love takes a backseat to shifting self pleasure.  Resentment and envy are the natural outcomes.  Once resentment takes the place of repentance, hearts become impenetrable vaults.  They take over a person’s very nature like a metastasis spreading over a body and block all vestiges of reason and common sense.  Judgement is involuntarily impaired.  Black and white becomes shades of gray.  Subjective judgement takes over with many shades of gray (rationalizations) between promiscuity and chastity – i.e., civil unions.  Fornication and adultery become sexual expression with no consequences.    A greater effort of will, or self control, is what defines maturity, a higher value of the human spirit.  Promiscuity obfuscates that greater will by requiring a person to believe or pretend to believe that self fulfillment is an easy undertaking.  Either way, the person is forced to rationalize their fall and/or subsequent behavior.  The benign sloth is forced to walk up to the front battle lines and wage war against all that is good.  This necessitates denigrating anything to do with chastity before marriage and fidelity after marriage.  Hence, disparaging remarks such as “virginity culture” and “rigid fundamentalist.”  Words become as swords and arrows, as well as comfort gels to sooth the guilt.  These degenerate soldiers invite comrads in arms to jump on their bandwagons.  The human mind has a tendency to assign strength and comfort to numbers, a childish assumption.

This requires us to recognize evil and the ability to put it behind us; to discern right from wrong, good from evil.  Of course, this is not easy today because we are often . . . standing alone in this battle.  It takes courage and faith beyond that which is evident in ourselves, an ability to see the reward waiting beyond the horizon.  It mandates an unusual ability to respect our bodies as God’s creation, to raise man to the next level of the truly good.

One thought on “Virtue And Resentment

  1. This is great!
    I love the bit about the culture, and “comfort gels to soothe the guilt.” It’s sad and true. How many ways can we use words to tear someone, or something, down…

    We are usually alone in this battle. What makes it so hard is difficulty recognizing people who are on the same side as us. :/


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