Dear Carolyn: I am not proud of this. My husband’s brother is an emergency room doctor and his wife is an elementary school teacher. They are selfless people who are sacrificing at the front lines of … everything. And I am so sick of hearing about it. I resent good people because I’m tired of hearing about them.
I have not said this to my husband or anybody else because I know it’s the equivalent of kicking a puppy. But I need help getting over this. How do you stop resenting people who did absolutely nothing wrong, but you are just burned out on the hero edit?
— Resenting Good People
Resenting Good People: Maybe you don’t need to stop the resentment so much as start doing more things you’re proud of.
They don’t all require more school. There’s selflessness and worth in making your household better, your community better, one person’s day better. Hold a scared person’s hand. Pick up roadside trash. Let someone merge in traffic. One kindness a day. Fake it till you feel it.
If you want to think bigger than that, and can, then please do. Picture the thanks of a tired world as the wind at your back.
If you’ve got nothing left in reserve for even the smallest generosities — no judgment here, there’s been a lot of “… everything” — then start with micro-generosity to yourself. Deep breathing. Open your chest and shoulders. A few times a day. Any time your resentments surge, maybe. Settle yourself. Forgive.
If you feel no benefit, then keep practicing. It’s a skill.
If you feel any benefit, then project that outward, in any increment you’ve got. A kind word, a small favor. A mental correction of a negative thought: “They have their [stuff] too,” is a helpful one for perspective.
As always, negative ruts are good cause to get evaluated for depression and other stress-adjacent conditions; healthy people don’t resent angels for showing them up. But health care and realistic, teeny-tiny adjustments in self-care are not mutually exclusive. Deep breath. One kind thing. “I can do this.”
Dear Carolyn: When my mother died, my much older brother (with whom I had always been close) was devastated and cut off contact with me without explanation. I reached out to him several times and was rebuffed. I was incredibly hurt.
Now over 15 years later, he is having health issues and suddenly wants to be in touch. I have such mixed feelings: I’m sorry he is in poor health, glad he apologized, glad he said he loves me, and also confused. I still have no understanding of what happened; he has only said that he was upset by our mother’s death (as I was, of course).
Some friends and family expect me to just pick up where we left off, but I no longer respect him and can’t instantly get over the hurt. He does not live nearby. What is the best way to handle this?
— Little Sister
Little Sister: I understand the impulse to hold him accountable. It’s natural.
But before you do, remember, what hurt you most was his absence from your life — and if you act on your sense of grievance by turning him away, temporarily or for good, then you’ll just be doing to yourself more of what he did to you.
And won’t time with him be worth more to you than any justice you get?
You love each other. He damaged that. Whatever unresolved anger you have is best resolved with him. Not in your separate corners as your time together runs out.
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