Tonight the Queen entertains the President of France at Windsor Castle. There’ll be a special performance of ‘Les Miserables’. This will take place in what will be known for the evening as the Music Room. Its proper name is the Waterloo Chamber. It was built to commemorate Britain's decisive victory over Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, and to provide a setting for more than 20 portraits of the military leaders and heads of State who helped defeat the French emperor. It was felt to be more tactful to change the name for the evening in case of any residual resentment in President Chirac or the French people over the defeat.
Awareness and sensitivity are usually important when dealing with those who might feel they came off worst in an interaction with us. Whether events proved us right and them wrong, or we’re favoured in some way over them, or in comparison with us they feel inadequate, there may well be people who feel resentment towards us.
When Jesus instructed his disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 6.44), he was referring mainly to those who wrong us. But it is equally important, and in some ways just as difficult, to love those who may hold a grudge against us. Encounters with such people can feel awkward; the desire not to crow can lead to being patronising; the temptation to act as if nothing was happening can produce a relationship that’s no longer real. The easiest solution is to avoid such contact.
The Queen’s decision to change the room’s name is intended to try and protect President Chirac’s feelings. Normally, this is not helpful. Recognition of the reality of what’s happened alongside determination to treat anyone we may have ‘defeated’ with respect and honesty may well require courage and won’t necessarily prevent painful feelings. But it’s the way of love and in the end of healing and new beginning.
During this month, 4 in every 10 staff will have been on holiday. That means, of course, that many of the remaining 6 out of 10 have had to cover for them. A teletext poll reveals that only 16% of them resent it.
In life, as well as at work, we have an often subconscious awareness of what is our responsibility and what is someone else’s. Whether in the life of the family or the doing of domestic chores, in the maintenance of friendships or the care of elderly parents, the provision of a bus service or the removal of rubbish, we have a pretty clear idea where our responsibility ends and an even clearer one where someone else’s starts. It’s easy to get angry and resentful when others don’t keep their side of the “bargain”.
Perhaps one reason why there’s so comparatively little resentment about providing cover at work, is that employees know they will get their turn to be away. It may not work out exactly even but gratitude for what others will do sometime in the future creates a relaxed approach to doing their work for them now.
In life, some resentment when others don’t do their bit may be justified and should lead to action to put it right. But some dissipates when seen in the context of how much many different people do to make our lives comfortable. Today gratitude for all we receive would be preferable to resentment for what we don’t.