Yesterday, while I was chatting with a friend, she told me a funny story. The family had gotten banana nut muffins to eat and there had not been enough muffins for everyone, and so my friend’s sister was upset. This prompted me, not surprisingly, to make a funny hashtag for the situation: #wherearemymuffins and to ponder a bit on the problem of resentment. Meanwhile, an acquaintance of mine posted a more serious problem that discussed the racism he felt for not being allowed to date white girls in the past in our church–he happens to be Latino–and how he struggles with people who deny that racism exists in the Church of God at present. This too prompted me to think of resentment, on a more serious level. As the subject is on my mind, therefore, I hope those of you who find your way to this page will at least indulge me and let me ponder this subject from a few angles while trying to probe what it means .
When I deeply reflect upon the matter of resentment, I must confess that I am a resentful person in a resentful world. The definition of resentment is bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly, and this is not an uncommon feeling in my life. I must confess that I have a fairly high amount of indignation present when one looks at the course of my life. I have a high conflict tolerance and unsurprisingly my relationships with others are marked by a large number of disagreements and offenses. If I do not consider myself to be easily offended, when I am offended I am deeply offended. When I hold a grudge I can hold it for a long time. I can think about my childhood, for example, and still feel angry about the injustice of it if I let myself thinking about it for very long. Nor am I the sort of opponent or enemy that people tend to enjoy having, if the last few years of my life are any indication of the way that my writing and speaking can get under people’s skin. When I write about resentment, I do not write about it as someone amused by the phenomenon so much as someone whose intense struggles in the area tend to be known by others before I even meet them.
Fairness in families is a difficult matter, and this is true whether we are speaking about blood families or families in a larger and more spiritual or metaphorical sense like that of churches. To treat people exactly alike when they are different is not fair, and to give obvious preferential treatment to some is unfair as well. It is not enviable to try to be fair and just to people who are always on the lookout to how they are being treated unjustly, as it is hard to be just with those who bother and irritate us, whether or not their complaints are just. Such issues of fairness can bother us deeply whether they result from matters as minor as muffins or whether they are about matters as profound as questions of our identity in the eyes of God and those who should consider themselves our brethren. Yet while we feel issues of injustice deeply when we feel that we have been treated unjustly, we are not always so sensitive to treat others justly and so avoid causing offense in such matters. We may express our preferences too openly and cause conflict between others. We also may too blindly accept the prejudices of those around us without even realizing it and so treat others unjustly without even realizing that we are doing so. Furthermore, we may not always be very gracious when this is brought to our attention.
Let us take, for example, the serious accusations of racism that my acquaintance brings up. I have seen this sort of racism with my own eyes. I have also heard testimony from others who can corroborate what he says from their own experience. Even in my own personal experience there have been times where I have danced with friends of mine of another race and had people look askance at me, even though in so doing I had no romantic intent but rather wished not to be partial in who I chose to spend a few minutes dancing and conversing with. I do not disagree, therefore, with my acquaintance that such matters can be a problem. I also know of a few counterexamples where once someone has reached a certain level of honor and position within the Church of God that their marriages to people of other ethnicities has not been a matter of scandal. A deacon or elder or pastor may do with impunity what an ordinary member may not, in this regard. Moreover, I would argue that there is a bit of a double standard, in that while it may be the source of gossip if someone like myself married a woman of another ethnicity or culture, it would not be strictly forbidden or viewed as seriously as would a case where an ordinary brother of another ethnicity married a white woman. I do not think this is necessarily fair, but I think such a double standard exists in the minds of many people.
What is to be done about the resentment that comes from such unfairness? Perhaps in the case of not having enough muffins for everyone, one can stop at a grocery store or perhaps a convenience store and get a banana nut muffin for someone who is missing one. In the case of more serious matters, it is not an easy thing to determine. First, people have to be aware that they are acting unjustly, and they are not likely to be overjoyed to be corrected or rebuked over such matters. It will likely take quite a bit of soul searching for people to realize that they have treated others unjustly and to come to terms with what they have done. At that point, they may seek to make amends and to apologize and seek pardon for their offenses. Are offended parties willing to forgive them and to reconcile with brethren and not forever hold those offenses over the heads of those who have done wrong? What is it that such people want? Is it enough to have the past acknowledged and apologized for, and for that behavior to cease? If that is enough to ease the resentment of others, I cannot see why such a thing should not be done at the earliest possible moment.
 See, for example: