I’m preparing for some teaching next week and came across some quotes that a colleague had pulled from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book Choosing Forgiveness. She has some really powerful statements on unforgiveness and bitterness:
In our therapeutic culture, it’s widely acceptable to acknowledge that we’ve been “hurt” or “wounded” — words that focus on the wrong that has been done to us. But it’s a lot harder to admit that we’ve let that hurt escalate (or descend, to use a better word) into unforgiveness or bitterness — which puts responsibility on our shoulders.
Our society has become so riddled with rancor and bitterness we almost consider it a normal response to life. Every day in America, tends of thousands of new lawsuits are filed — millions a year! And those who don’t let their bitterness lead them into litigation or erupt into violent crimes and addictions are often saddled with more subtle forms of expression: silent distrust, insecurity, illogical fears, sullen indifference, compulsive agitation and restlessness. (Choosing Forgiveness, p. 57)
Wow! And then she gives a list of diagnostic questions to help us see if we are harboring bitterness without even realizing it. See if you relate to any of these statements:
- I often replay in my mind the incident(s) that hurt me.
- When I think of a particular person or situation, I still feel angry.
- I try hard not to think about the person, event, or circumstance that caused me so much pain.
- I have a subtle, sweet desire to see this person pay for what he or she did to me.
- Deep in my heart, I wouldn’t mind if something bad happened to the person(s) who hurt me.
- I often find myself telling others how this person has hurt me.
- A lot of my conversations revolve around this situation.
- Whenever his or her name comes up, I am more likely to say something negative than something positive about him or her.
I find this to be a really helpful list for identifying where I may be harboring unforgiveness or bitterness and not even be aware of it. But let’s not leave off on the bad news; read this final word of encouragement from Nancy:
The cure for bitterness is to trust both His hand and His heart and to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that [you] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB). Yes, grace is there, because He is there. (page 80)