Carolyn Hax: No hero worship left to give, and not proud of it


Dear Carolyn, I am not proud of this. My husband’s brother is an emergency room doctor and his wife is a primary school teacher. They are selfless people who sacrifice on the front lines of… everything. And I’m so sorry to hear about it. I dislike good people because I’m tired of hearing about them.

I haven’t said this to my husband or anyone else because I know it’s the equivalent of kicking a puppy. But I need help to get over this. How do you stop resenting people who did nothing wrong, but you’re just burnt out on the hero edit?

— Angry at good people

Resent 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 need more school. There is selflessness and value in making your household better, your community better, one person’s day better. Hold a scared person’s hand. Pick up litter at the roadside. Let someone merge in traffic. One treat a day. Fake it till you know it.

If you want to think bigger than that, and can, then do it. Imagine the thanks from a weary world as the wind at your back.

If you don’t have anything left for even the smallest of largesse – no judgment here, there’s been a lot of “…everything” – then start with micro– generosity to yourself. Deep breathing. Open your chest and shoulders. Sometimes a day. Any time your dissatisfaction increases, maybe. Decide yourself. Forgive.

If you don’t feel any benefit, then keep practicing. It is a skill.

If you feel any benefit, project it outward, in whatever increment you have. A kind word, a small favor. A mental correction of a negative thought: “They have theirs [stuff] too,” is useful for perspective.

As always, negative tracks are good reason to be evaluated for depression and other stress-related conditions; Healthy people don’t resent angels for showing them off. But healthcare and realistic, tiny adjustments in self-care are not mutually exclusive. Breathe in well. A kind thing. “I can do this.”

Dear Carolyn, When my mother died, my much older brother (whom I had always been close to) was devastated and cut off contact with me without explanation. I contacted him several times and was rejected. I was incredibly hurt.

Now over 15 years later, he has health problems and suddenly wants contact. I have such mixed feelings: I’m sorry he’s in bad health, glad he apologized, glad he said he loves me, and also confused. I still have no understanding of what happened; he just said he was upset about 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 don’t respect him anymore and won’t get over the hurt right away. He doesn’t live nearby. What is the best way to handle this?

Little sister: I understand the impulse to hold him accountable. Its 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 rejecting him, temporarily or for good, you’ll only do more of it to yourself he did to you.

And won’t the time with him be worth more to you than any justice you get?

You love each other. He hurt it. Whatever unresolved anger you have is best resolved with him. Not in your separate corners since their time together is running out.

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