Sometimes one gets great insight from the oddest places. This happened to me the other day when a headline about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, caught my eye.
As we all know, Meghan had a massive fallout with the British royal family, moving to the U.S. with her husband Prince Harry to allegedly live private lives. But such privacy has been difficult as the couple, particularly Meghan, have actively sought the camera to complain about the many injustices they endured during their life as royals.
Such complaining must go, however, if Meghan wants to redeem her public image, according to former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown. “I think Meghan does really need to find the thing she cares about the most and develop her own sort of brand that isn’t just a grievance brand, that is actually something we recognize as hers,” Brown said. “It’s hard to find that and I think she hasn’t yet found that but I think she could if she rows back from the focusing always on what didn’t work.”
And in that little phrase “grievance brand” we get a clear view of what’s wrong with society.
Yes, Meghan is a prime example of one who airs her grievances. But unfortunately, Meghan isn’t the only one guilty of this. We are all members of the grievance culture—I know I am!—all too eager to blame others for our mistakes and dwell on our problems than to learn from them and move on.
Some of us have been abused in the past—sexually, physically, or emotionally—and thus we have a hard time building new relationships or mentally getting past our hurts. Some of us have been abandoned by spouses or parents or even close friends, resulting in a betrayal that causes us to distrust everyone. Others have been lied about, or canceled, or maligned, or stolen from, creating an anger and shame that constantly eats at us.
Because of these situations, what Brown said about Meghan needing to get out of the grievance rut applies to all of us. The only way we get past our grievances is by looking forward and moving on to something more positive instead of fixating on what didn’t work or what others did to us in our past.
That’s hard to do, because it requires us to change direction midstream and turn around to take a different path in life. Former spy Whittaker Chambers had to do this when he left the Communist Party, and as he writes in his autobiography, Witness, such a change is accompanied by “fears, uncertainties, self-doubts, cowardices, flinchings of the will.” These feelings are “natural to any man who undertakes to reverse in mid-course the journey of his life,” Chambers wrote, but while hard, they also bring “a surging release and a sense of freedom, like a man who bursts at last gasp out of a drowning sea.”
So how do we get past all these fears—or what can motivate us to change gears from grievance mode to freedom mode? The answer is the pursuit of true wisdom.
“True wisdom,” Chambers wrote, “comes from the overcoming of suffering and sin. All true wisdom is therefore touched with sadness.”
Thus, we’re left with a choice. We can continue on as members of the grievance culture, holding on to our fears and hurts and blaming others for our problems. But those who do so remain fools, which is likely why so many in our culture seem to know and understand nothing.
The other option is to embrace the sadness and suffering that comes into our lives, using these to climb to new heights of understanding. In doing so, we will gain wisdom to use not only in our own lives, but to pass along to others as well, pulling them out of their own grievance pits.
And as more of us choose this response to the grievances that inevitably come into our lives, the more likely we are to see the grievance culture disappear entirely.
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