Attorney Steve Grow
November 11, 2011
We must live in the world, said Jesus, but not be of the world. We obviously must pay some attention to happenings in the world—the truth about them is part of the truth that will set you free, provided you discern what is important for each moment of your life and relate wisely to the situations you meet.
There is such a profusion of information and advice. We get it from our own thoughts, observations and memories, from friends, parents, children, colleagues, ministers, doctors, political leaders, newspapers, radio, TV and Internet—in every conceivable way. One can be informed and enlightened by it, but one can also drown in it or escape into it, or be seriously misled by it!! A great deal of what we are exposed to, even from our own thoughts, memories and imaginations, is unreliable or unimportant. And many people sharing information with us have their own blind spots and agendas, conscious and unconscious, which may cause them to overlook, misreport, distort or withhold vital information.
How does one discern wisely what matters and what is reliable—so as to remain in contact with the truth that matters at each moment of one’s life? How do we strike a sane balance so that we are not drawn out of our own centers to become of the world, instead of being in it but not of it as Jesus advised?
Part of the answer, at least, is to observe not only the incoming information and the person imparting it to you, but also yourself and your own reaction to it. Pavlov observed that dogs and people can easily be manipulated if they can first be put into a state of anger, fear or exultation. So watch especially for signs of any of these, and signs that someone imparting news or information to you is trying to stir up one of these states in you by the manner, timing or content of what they impart to you. In one of these states, your ability to relate to news and information wisely may be greatly impaired. In other words, watch the news and gossip, and the person imparting it to you, but watch yourself even more.
Franklin Roosevelt must have been keenly aware of this when he first advised Americans as President in those terrible times of early 1933. The first thing he advised in his inaugural address was this:
[F]irst of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
If Pavlov were becoming President, he might have further advised that anger itself and exultation itself were also something to be wary of.
people live in a state of chronic resentment and anger, and seek out news
and information and other experiences that they can be angry about so
as to give their resentment a daily feeding of something it can resent
and feel good about resenting. As a zookeeper feeds fish to the seals,
they feed to their resentment something that it can feed on. (Likewise,
doses of the fearful or exciting can be fed to one’s fearfulness
or excitability.) This can show up in lots
When someone gives you information, there are infinitely many things you could resent, including:
The person giving you the information.
• The person’s timing or manner in imparting the information to you.
• The person or situation the information is about.
• The fact that you have been made aware of the situation.
• The fact that you may not really know quite what to believe.
• The fact that you are unable to make the situation go away, if it is true.
• The fact that your life or routine is being interrupted.
Some people have reporters, commentators, newspapers or media outlets that they love to hate, and some of those people tune into those sources regularly to see what they are saying today, so they have something to seethe about. Some people have their least favorite politicians, business colleagues, clergymen, friends or relatives, and they regularly seek out information about them so that, again, they can have something to seethe about. Not uncommonly, these same people pass along their daily findings to others in their social group in an effort to stir up and nurture a similar ongoing resentment in the people they share the day’s information with.
Other people have reporters, commentators, newspapers or media outlets that they love to love, and some of those people turn into those sources regularly to see what bad things they are saying today about someone else. Then they feel extra justified in seething about the person criticized by their favorite source of news and information—they take the negative report as permission and a recommendation of whom to hate that day. Likewise, some have their favorite politicians, business colleagues, clergymen, friends or relatives to whom they turn regularly to find out who those people believe worthy of criticism. And again, they feel extra good about being able to seethe about whomever their favorite is criticizing that day.
Since resenting in any form is wrong and naturally makes one feel uncomfortable at some level, one seeks to draw others into the same state or help keep them in it—so as to feel less uncomfortable oneself. If you ever feel discomfort when you impart information to someone who does not react with resentment when receiving the information from you, then you might very well be in such a state as I am describing—perhaps largely unbeknownst to you.
A further problem with chronic resenting is that it makes you more, not less, subject to influence by the very thing or person you resent, as well as by anyone who comforts or supports you in your improper resentful reaction. This may arise as follows. Say you resent a reporter. Something in you, quite properly, makes you feel distinctly uncomfortable about the resenting, because it is unhealthy and wrong. Very quickly this discomfort can evolve into a feeling of guilt—but not guilt you attribute to the resenting (the awareness of which you likely are dodging). Instead you misattribute that feeling of guilt toward the very person or situation that you have been (improperly) resenting, and, to relieve the pressure on yourself, are more inclined to go along with what the hated person or situation seems to be asking of you.
On a more mundane level, have you ever noticed how a pushy sales person, friend, minister or politician, unprepared to give up, will at some point seek to make you angry or to do something rude so that she can exploit your tendency to apologize and go along with what she is asking you to do—and thus sell you a product or idea you don’t need at all or persuade you into an inadvisable course of action? You do not pursue a wiser course because your resentment has made you more vulnerable to improper control and less able to see and follow a wiser path. Fear and exultation can do the same.
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All too many people seem to operate in this manner. It is definitely something to pay attention to if you think you might be one of them. A good start might be to not seek out your usual sources of information and reports for a day or two. Do you find yourself distinctly uncomfortable as a result? If you do, it is just possible that it is the voracious thing within you that makes you hate and resent that is wanting its daily feeding—and feeding that thing does you absolutely no good though it may feel good at some level. If you are habituated to hating and resenting, passing up your daily dose of the hateable and resentable will make you feel just as uncomfortable as a drug addict not able to get her fix, or a hungry seal not able to get his fish.
And, I assure you, your situation is a dire one until you awaken to the need to watch and counter your tendency to resent—in every moment of your life.
© 2011 Steve Grow - All Rights Reserved
Steve Grow holds degrees in physics, law and philosophy. He is a retired lawyer who practiced business law for many years. He studied philosophy and cognitive psychology at the graduate level, including working with one of the world’s leading scholars on the work of Aristotle. He was co-editor in chief of his college newspaper. He has observed and wondered about history, psychology, religion, politics, journalism and good (and bad) government since childhood.
He believes that, now and always, the central problem in politics is monitoring and governing those in political positions—so that ordinary people are the ultimate governors and can hold those in office fully accountable. Ordinary people deserve, and need, full legal protection of their privacy. In contrast, all activities of those in government should be open to full scrutiny at all times. In a certain sense, ordinary people should be “ungovernable” and accorded a broad measure of privacy – on the other hand, politicians and their actions should be open to monitoring, closely watched and constrained. Anyone with a contrary view, he believes, is an enemy of freedom—wittingly or unwittingly.