writing for children

Bitter Truth

 
“Bitterness leads nowhere. It turns back on itself. It is the eternal cul-de-sac.”

(Agatha ChristieMurder in Three Acts, 1934)*

***
Bitterness is insidious. It slinks in on the coattails of our anger and pain. When not identified and exterminated, it slowly morphs into a monster who whispers to our spirit, “But they must pay!”  

And if we give it an ear, the caustic beast takes over everything. We aren’t carrying it in a cute little emotional backpack. Nope, it digs in its talons and clings to our backs, forcing us into a slow crawl.

But we can’t go through life carrying that type of burden. It sucks the life out of everything we do, say, think, and feel. The bitter truth about bitterness is this—it causes us to become someone we aren’t meant to be and less of the person we are meant to be.

And if we let bitterness stick around long enough? We inadvertently put it on a pedestal. And even without realizing it, our desire to make someone pay becomes a higher priority than forgiving them in the same manner we have been forgiven by Christ…and then bitterness can become an idol. And that idol keeps our eyes off of the forgiveness we have been freely given and places it squarely on our desire to see someone else hurt in the same way we have been hurt.

Maybe you know you have taken a bite of the bitter fruit…and maybe you know it’s taken root. But sometimes we don’t even know that we’re harboring bitterness. And many times the person who hurt us doesn’t know that we are harboring bitterness toward them. But those who live with us will usually know. Those who are the closest to us are sometimes the ones who are able to identify it more readily. They see us at our best and our worst…and they can see changes in us even when we can’t—or don’t want to.

And while we might be able to hide the bitterness at work or with those who aren’t part of our inner circle…our bitterness won’t stay hidden forever.

Bitterness is anger gone sour, an attitude of deep discontent that poi...  Quote by Billy Graham, Billy Graham in Quotes - QuotesLyfe

The bitterness can infiltrate our speech. It can reveal itself as part of our social posts. It can become part of the way we respond to everyone who “crosses us”. We are more apt to see other people as lost causes…to give up on relationships…and to view them without grace. It becomes a spiritual blind spot.

So what are some signs that we might be living in a palace of bitterness? It is different for each person, but here are a few symptoms we might experience:  

1.     When someone brings up name of the person who hurt us, bitterness trains our brain to explain/describe how wrong the other person was and still is. It doesn’t take much to set us on that trail…and there is not usually any redemptive aspects to our conversation about that person. 

2.     As Susan mentioned, there’s also the issue of “rehearsing”. Yup, when we think about seeing the offending party, we rehearse what we’ll say to them…over and over and over. Even if it’s just imaginary, it becomes something we ponder more often than not.

3.     We dwell on the things that could have been done differently (sometimes obsessively), while simultaneously blaming the one who caused the offense for everything that’s going wrong in our life.

4.     We don’t like to be around “cheerful” or positive people. It’s as if their sunny disposition disrupts the bitter flow we’ve got going on. Their joy irritates our bitterness.

5.     There is a distinct lack of grace for others, and mistakes are rarely our fault. We have a hard time apologizing. 

6.     We start being judgmental of others, not just the one who hurt us. 

7.     We justify our growing animosity with the remembrance of the sins of those who hurt us.

Bitterness is a heart issue; so what do we do about it? How can we respond to others in the same way that Christ has responded to us? What if that person continues to be a jerk? Or what if they never apologize? Or what if they don’t think they are wrong? What is there to chew on that can help us let go of the bitterness?

Forgiveness: it’s what’s for dinner…and many times, the appetizers and dessert. Why? Because unlike revenge (and pineapple), forgiveness is best served any time and all the time. Corny, yes…but nevertheless, it’s true. 

The Bible doesn’t say that you have to like someone to forgive them. But it does say that you must LOVE them. And true love moves and breathes in the Spirit…not seeking revenge.

In 2nd Timothy 2:24 we are told that those who serve God “…must not be quarrelsome (argumentative) but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful…”. And in Matthew Jesus says, ““But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

It’s not enough to say that we forgive, we are instructed to DO something to show it. We are called to put our forgiveness into action. Then it gets even harder, y’all. In Romans 12, Paul instructs us to treat our “enemies” to lunch. Whaaaa?

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

That’s a tall order, y’all, and I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Are y’all? 

When I read the above passage, it reminds me that I’m a victor, rather than a victim of circumstances or someone else’s choices. 

Jesus said that “no one takes my life from me…I lay it down…and pick it up again.” That’s what we are being called to do, as well. But in order to do that, we have to take off the bitter monster who is weighing us down and holding us captive…and put on the yoke of Jesus instead. He said, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Come to me.I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.[ Simply join your life with mine.[c] Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle,[d] humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.[e] For all that I require of you will be pleasant[f] and easy to bear.”

Because when we hold on the bitterness and imprison the bitterness against others in our spirit, they are not the ones in bondage—it’s always us.

Donna

*If this is not the correct attribute, please let me know. But my research has led me to believe that the quote is from the cited source.

p.s. Join us for the other posts in this series. You can find them here! If you’d like to read them, here are the links:
The “B” Word—Not What You Think: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/the-b-word-not…/
Bitter Fruit: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/04/bitter-fruit/
From Bitter to Better: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/2021/05/10/from-bitter-to-better/

writing for children

Bitter Fruit

by Susan Wilson

Bitterness is uglier than we think. Much like that lovely fruit, the pineapple. It looks rather exotic on the outside. It even has a tough exterior and is rather pointed but we do love to dance with the dangerous. I recently ate my fill of that delicious fruit. Right up until I felt my mouth tingle and all of a sudden felt as if I had burnt my tongue on something really hot. Just like when we burn our tongue on a cup of hot liquid, I could not taste anything else. It even hurt my gums when I brushed my teeth for a few days. That fruit basically bites you back. It has an acid that eats away at you while you eat it.

So, why is this stuff even on the shelf without a warning sign? For people like me, who apparently don’t learn these things until later in life. Sometimes we all miss the “obvious”. Back to the other “forbidden fruit” we are warned against. Much like unforgiveness, bitterness is a trap for us, not those we are angry with. The ways it bites us back are numerous. Bitterness becomes the lens that we view all of life through. It colors and corrupts our view. It tethers us to that person’s sin against us. Until we let go of anger and hatred, the person is still hurting us. We let go for our sakes.

I stopped eating that pineapple when I connected the dots. The Bible instructs us to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us (2 Cor 2:10,11) because he intends to use this to destroy us. We are to forgive just as we have been forgiven. I get into trouble when I get too far away from the understanding of all I have been forgiven of. The sad truth is that we will live with the consequences of another’s sin whether we like it or not. Our decision is merely how we choose to do so. Will we do it in bondage or in the freedom of forgiveness. Bitterness is the fruit of full grown unforgiveness and it is bondage. Acts 8:23 says it is “the gall of bitterness and in a bond forged by iniquity (to fetter souls).”

That verse in Acts references Isaiah 58:6 which speaks of what a true fast and an acceptable day to the Lord is. “…the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every enslaving yoke.” Why does God hate sin? Because it causes death. What is unforgiveness? Sin that we can repent of. That is where Hope resides.

I have found over the years that whenever I don’t forgive I tend to rehearse what was done to me over and over in my head.  I will never forget when the Lord spoke to me about this.  He used the following passage of scripture.

In Genesis 30:25-43, we read of the account of Jacob when he was ready to finally part ways with his uncle Laban.   Now Laban had not treated Jacob very well and had deceived him while also benefiting greatly from the way the Lord had blessed Jacob.  When it was time for them to part ways, Jacob had a plan.  He would take only the speckled and black sheep and goats.    Jacob took rods made of poplar and almond and plane trees and peeled white stripes in them exposing the white which was in the rods. 

When the strongest of the animals would come to the watering troughs where they came to drink and mate, he put the rods in front of them.   Thus their offspring turned out to be speckled.  So instead of them being the weakest of the herds, they were actually the best of them.

The Lord told me, what you look at you will reproduce.  What you focus on and dwell on is what you will become. 


I cannot spend too much time rehearsing what another has done to me before I have to go back to that place that I am responsible for. I am responsible for my choices, my thoughts, my actions, my beliefs, and my responses; all of those will I be giving an account for. All of those things I am given both responsibility for and power over. That is where that feeling of powerlessness ends. That is where I am no longer a victim. I can choose not to be around certain people again. I can choose to set healthy boundaries moving forward. But as for justice, the only justice is found at the Cross. The cross is what makes forgiveness right and legal because Jesus took the eternal payment for all sin upon Himself (2 Cor 5:21).

I have been sinned against, but the difference is, He knew no sin and bore it all for me and for you. Hard Truth – We have to come to terms with the pain that sin causes. But we can choose not to become tethered to it and defined by it. Because before we know it, our identity gets wrapped up in it. I refuse to be defined by what has been done to me by others. I am defined by the One who laid His life down for me, the Creator of the universe. When we release and forgive it doesn’t mean that what happened was ok or that God has let go of them. He is just and fair and knows how to handle it much better than we do. I don’t have to feel like it to forgive. Once we do forgive Satan loses his power over us and the Lord steps in to heal that area of our soul. He has restored my soul on many occasions and continues to do so. The question remains do we trust Him?

Susan

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If you’d like to read the other posts in this series, you can find them here:
The “B” word…Not What You Think: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/2021/05/03/the-b-word-not-what-you-think/
Bitter Truth: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/07/bitter-truth/
From Bitter to Betterhttps://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/from-bitter-to…/

writing for children

The “B” Word…Not What You Think.

Prologue

Susan Wilson is a sweet, sweet friend and “adopted” sister to me. I’ve known her longer than I’ve known my husband! 😊 We met during the first week of orientation at Appalachian State University in 1991. As the years have gone by, we’ve had many deep discussions about marriage, motherhood, and mountains (physical, spiritual, and emotional ones). It’s been a joy to be her friend for so long and to walk out our individual journeys together.

Recently, I asked her to collaborate with me on a blog post about a mountain that all of us, at some time in our lives, need to throw into the sea. It’s name?

BITTERNESS.

We have all been on the receiving or giving end of bitterness at some point in our lives—and it is not a pleasant experience on either side. So what do we do about it? We can’t navigate someone else’s journey, but we can certainly take responsibility for our own. The next couple of blog posts will be a combination of thoughts, research, and prayer on the subject from Susan and me. As you read, I ask that you consider if there are any places in your life that are covered in the vines and weeds of bitterness and unforgiveness…then ask God how to deprive them of oxygen and rip them out by roots.

Here’s something to chew on today as we finish preparing for the next couple of posts…

Bitterness, which springs from unforgiveness, affects us spiritually…but it affects us physically, as well. And yes, doctors agree. This quote from Hopkinsmedicine.org shows us one perspective:

There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,”      says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” (Karen Swartz, M.D., John Hopkins Medical Center, and https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it)

And from Piedmont Healthcare:

“Living in a chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increasing inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol in the body,” she explains. “Forgiveness engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your immune system function more efficiently and makes room for feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.” The writers warn, “If you are tempted to dwell on an offense, remind yourself what you are doing to your body when you run the scenario in your mind again. Your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined,” says Buttimer. “When you replay in your mind an experience you had six months ago, your body reacts as if you’re having the same experience over and over again.” (You can find the entire article here: https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/what-does-holding-a-grudge-do-to-your-health)

We hope you’ll join us over the next few days as we explore what happens when we choose bitterness over forgiveness…and how that looks in our lives. You can find the other posts in the series through the links below:

Bitter Fruit: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/04/bitter-fruit/ by Susan Wilson
Bitter Truth: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/07/bitter-truth/ by Donna (me)
From Bitter to Better https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/from-bitter-to…/ by Susan Wilson