Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm not Bitter... I Just Wish You'd Never Been Born.

“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.” Proverbs 10:18

These days I give a lot of thought to bitterness.

It’s mainly conviction, with just a hint of justification thrown in.

It’s also because I’m intrigued about what the common thread is, weaving all of us together, keeping us tied into this emotional response we feel so strongly, and also feel such shame about. What are the similarities between people who struggle with bitterness? Is there something in our character that we share that leads us to this response?

Robin and I were talking about this, and he asserted that maybe bitterness can be traced to a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God, because sometimes we believe that our secret punishment of an individual is making up for God’s apparent inactivity.  I agree that, for many, that’s at the heart of our response.

But what is the cause?

Why is bitterness so widely experienced and so rarely addressed in an honest way?

Before y’all panic and cling to your bitterness like it is the last cord tethering you to earth, rest assured that I’m not going to condemn you or try to give you more typical answers for you to ignore. I think we just need to honestly explore this together.

 I’ve heard it said that bitterness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. If this is true (which I believe it is), bitterness support group would be mass suicide by rat poisoning, with everyone happily throwing back shots of Bromakil and toasting their new friends.

I think bitterness is rarely discussed in a productive way because people who struggle with bitterness have the uncanny ability to adopt other people’s bitterness, even affirm it. Sharing the struggle with bitterness could easily turn into a justifying session that only serves to spread the bitterness around.  

You know, like… hypothetically…

There is also that fear of frightening away all of our “not-bitter” friends by discussing this with them. Maybe there’s some fear of seeming like the stereotypical bitter person who is presumably destined to be the vicious old lady who curses amidst her random bitter musings and beats her grandkids with her cane. 

So, rather than talking to friends who might hold us accountable, we talk to other bitter people and that only serves to make us feel better about our bitterness. It’s a pretty intense cycle.

Part of what is so intriguing is the fact that some of the people I know who also struggle with bitterness are also some of the most compassionate people. Ever.

Many of them are the sort of people you’ve never even seen angry after knowing them for years.

They all have valid reasons for their feelings also- like husbands cheating their wives, pastors cheating God’s wife, and mean folks mistreating their loved ones. These are all injustices we should be angry about! Which leads to my next point…

Is it possible that bitterness is the fruit of our fallen sense of justice?

If you think of it, we acknowledge lust as the fallen sense of love, temporal happiness the fallen sense of joy, inactivity as the fallen sense of self control. What’s the fallen sense of justice?

It seems like most of the people who struggle with bitterness are the ones who have opened their hearts the widest, and then were shocked to find that what they were loving was fallible.

This is probably the biggest reason people leave the Church. It’s because they opened their hearts wide, received adoption into God’s family, and then discovered that the family was dysfunctional. It wasn’t what they had expected, so they left, wounded.

{If you struggle with bitterness against the Church, I’ll be posting about that in the future so please come on back.}  .

While I can speculate all I want about what God is up to, working justice on earth, I still have to obey God’s revealed will: namely, that hating people is wrong and that Love covers a multitude of sins. (Proverbs 10:12)

The fact is: JUSTICE. IS. GOD’S.

Justice is something we can feel our spirits yearning for, but it is not ours to administer. The justice we are to administer is righteous living- it's to pray for those who persecute us, to love our enemies, and to turn the other cheek. 

Personally, that makes me feel a little less zealous about justice.

I have to be honest, this post makes me feel pretty bummed. In order for me to post on this and not be a hypocrite, I have to actually take my own advice. I have to pray for the people who hurt me and my family, and I have to try to love them.

So, as a challenge to those of you who may experience bitterness, let’s take some baby steps together. (Don’t panic.)

Do something kind, something that you don’t even slightly want to do for the person you’re feeling this bitterness for. If you can’t do it simply because it’s the right thing, do it for that whole idea of heaping coals on your enemies’ head (Romans 12:20).

It’ll make you feel better either way.

Grace and peace. 


  1. Great One! I often feel like if I am not careful my desire for righteousness can easily get perverted to bitterness

  2. Such a good post!!
    love this thought....
    "sometimes we believe that our secret punishment of an individual is making up for God’s apparent inactivity"

  3. Peace Indeed - you are an old soul my sweet girl