PERSECUTOR OR VICTIM?

One handy way to take my spiritual/emotional temperature is to ask: Who do I resent? Whether it’s people, places, or institutions–who or what do I resent?

I’ve been mulling this over a lot recently because, three years into this “new” leg of the journey in Tucson, I find that certain people still rise up in my consciousness, often many years after the fact, who I feel did me wrong over the 30 years I lived in LA.

I’ve been taking these people one by one, dedicating to each my prayers, works, joys and sufferings for a day. Really sitting with the person for a bit. Trying to “feel” him or her in a sense instead of myself.

And what’s been fantastic is that I see more and more clearly how very often I had placed myself in a position to be hurt. I was renting a place because it was cheap and I was afraid to pay more and inevitably there were landlord and/or neighbor problems. I was desperate for connection and love and I tried to insinutate myself into the lives of people who were clearly incapable of valuing me, just as I wasn’t truly valuing them. I showed up at places and to people from whom I could get a little bit of a free ride (totally of course hiding this from myself).

In fact, a lot of my stuff, historically, has to do with money fears–understandable, perhaps, as a single woman trying to make my way as a creative writer. But to understand isn’t to overlook or to refuse to see.

I took things personally. I had expectations. I was often blind to the fact that even when my motives are good, I often try to run the show.

I keep thinking of my late friend Dennis. Dennis had been shot in a convenience store holdup when he was 18 and lived in a wheelchair, a paraplegic in chronic pain, till he died at 64 or so. They never caught the guy who shot him.

I once asked him how he dealt with the resentment. He replied, “My body’s shit; I can’t afford to let that happen to my spirit. That guy was doing what he was supposed to be doing that day, and I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.”

And really, isn’t that just about always the case? People are just going about their business, doing the best they know how (just as I am), and it’s in the nature of the human condition that we step on each other’s toes now and then. Especially if you happen to have put yourself where you don’t belong.

Also I read an essay called “We Do Not Come in Peace” the other day by Cynthia L. Haven, who was a friend and is a scholar of René Girard, the late mimetic desire/scapegoat theory philosopher.

An excerpt:

“After [a talk Girard gave many years ago at Stanford], one man asked a provocative question: “Given that we can’t entirely trust the veracity of ancient writings, how would you measure the success of your theory?”

Girard’s answer was a thunderbolt in its directness and simplicity: ‘You will see the success of my theories when you recognize yourself as a persecutor.’

That is not where most people begin. Yet there is nowhere else to begin.”

You will see the success of my theories when you recognize yourself as a persecutor.

That is always where and when the welcome truth dawns. If I’m really honest: Who was the persecutor, and who was the victim? As I go about my day, in my thoughts, words, and actions–who is the persecutor and who is the victim?

Let’s just say it’s no accident we begin the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the Penitential Rite.

In fact, my worst resentments aren’t necessarily against those who did me the most harm (insofar as these things can be measured): they’re against people around whom I acted badly in response to the perceived harm. Any time (admittedly seldom) when I was able to turn the other cheek, or exercise restraint of tongue and pen, or just keep walking with a more or less unclouded heart–those resentments in my experience tend to dissolve over time fairly quickly.

The times I made myself look bad, or exposed my vulnerability, in other words, are what really rankle.

Anyway, food for thought. As G.K. Chesterton responded when asked, “What’s wrong with the world?”: I am.

So let’s let everyone off the hook, for a day at least.


Meanwhile, this week’s entry in my Personal Communion of Artist Saints: Donald Evans, the King of Postage Stamps.

12 Replies to “PERSECUTOR OR VICTIM?”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    So very well said!❤️

  2. Oh my gosh! Thank you, Heather! I so needed to hear this today! Who or what do I resent today? Not a person, place or institution, but my almost 8 month old puppy! Just when I am starting to feel a bit smug about properly dealing with my resentments, a little guy named Mickey Mouth Underfoot holds up a mirror and I see “Poor Me” staring back! After many puppy classes, he breaks out in “you’re not the boss of me”, he acts like a puppy, he whines, gets in the way of my work no matter how hard I try to control him and his environment (Okay–I see that the joke is on me!), and the list goes on. Is this God’s sense of humor? Is this God’s way of teaching me once again that I am not the director of the show?? I’m starting to experience that “gift of desperation” as I am SO disappointed in the person I become in the face of his offending my ego! (again, poor me)

    I know enough about recovery to have found that the “gift of desperation” is where the sun begins to rise. I learn to let go, admit my ways are not working and allow God show me the way. The problems ARE of my own making–that “putting myself in a position of being hurt” by my assumptions and my unfair expectations of both puppy, myself and my husband. I need help. And that is a good thing!! (:
    Thank you, Heather!!
    PS I dearly love the little guy!

  3. Alicia Ellison says: Reply

    Congratulations on your Kylemore Abbey workshop being sold out and your upcoming events in DC and Virginia.

  4. Heather E. Crotty says: Reply

    Dear Heather, I appreciate your pieces so much. In a time when the moral thermometer is broken and more and more we are rushed to shut eye without taking a detailed inventory, your ideas are sorely needed. The piece on the stamp artist was so beautiful. What a beautiful picture of a person who applied their agency day after day.

    I wanted to let you know my sister, Maria Forde, is an artist out in San Francisco. You can find her on the web at mariaforde.net and I think she’s gone by Maria Forde Emerson. Don’t feel obligated, but she’s pretty interesting.

    We love you here at the Deacon Joe Crotty household in Carbondale, Colorado!

  5. Martha Lewis says: Reply

    Thank you

  6. Dennis Wolny says: Reply

    What perspective for the mind and soul, l have been wrestling with the same thoughts for l have tried to the turn the other cheek and failed recently in putting your thoughts into practice. I now will try a better approach to move on from the perceived wrongs that continue to not go away. Dennis had a great response, the more l think about it, he is correct and l need to move on.
    Thanks Heather, l needed these thoughts.

  7. I loved it, all of it!!!
    It reminds me of my inherent truth, I am a sinner & need Gods mercy.
    I just mailed out a thank you card to a beautiful soul & asked the postal clerk for a pretty stamp-looking forward to the book pick. Thank you.

  8. Alfred Fortin says: Reply

    Thank you Heather, your words are greatly appreciated in my time of need.

  9. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    Oh thank you, thank you, people. Thrilled to know others can relate. I wasn’t thinking of this at all when I wrote it, but in light of the news yesterday afternoon, could this possibly be more timely? I’m ignoring all of it, and instead went to Mass this morning for the Feast of the Visitation…

    Yes, whether it’s a puppy, a spouse, a sibling, an employer, a friend, a political candidate, the IRS, Bank of America, amazon, facebook, Catholicism, gender extremism…if I’m spending my life seething, I am adding to the problem, not working toward alleviating it…

    Heather Crotty, blessings to your family and I LOVE your sister’s stuff. How about her series “Heather: 3 Things I Like About My Sister”! Check it out people, https://www.mariaforde.net/heather.htm, and all of Maria Forde’s delightful, inventive work. Also especially loved the author series–so many of my own favorites–and somehow that she included the Capture of Ted Bundy in her Strange 31 Years….

    Up with postage stamps for sure. I just bought a Forever sheet of iconic railway stations…

  10. Anonymous says: Reply

    I love it when you “kick me in the head” and get my oh not me, I am not like that’ attention, dearest Heather! Oh for a world where we we all! speak out loud, as vulnerably as you!

  11. Anonymous says: Reply

    Hello, (reading) “Redeemed”
    Praying a prayer of Thanksgiving for the God-given talent you have, and are using in God’s great plan of salvation, for His greater honor and glory and peace to all people! Can’t put the book down! May God bless you abundantly! Sister Barbara

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh thank you and bless you, Sr. Barbara! That means the world to me. That book is dear to my heart, too…may Christ’s light shine on your own pilgrimage and prayer.

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!

Discover more from HEATHER KING

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading