Brooks Hanes wrote a great post this week over at The Gospel Coalition blog on The Cure for Bitterness. I’m not at all familiar with Pastor Hanes, but I hope that will change as I read more from him like this! He really captures the pain of bitterness:
Leaders who treated us with contempt, friends and family who pushed us out of their lives, bosses who lied to us about job openings, or respected business people who told us one thing and told our friends another—similar types of people have hurt us all.
After years of subsiding anger, the free-flowing pain slows its sloshing, and turns to concrete: It is bitterness.
And then points to the (admittedly difficult) antidote of forgiveness:
Of course, we know what to do! Confront and forgive the wrongdoer (Matthew 18). The gospel tells us that God loves us so much he sent his Son Jesus to pay for all our sin. This includes the sin with which someone hurt you badly in your past. For Christians the sin is forgiven; have you forgiven that person, even if they do not know they did something to hurt you?
Knowing what to do—and doing it—are good and evil twin brothers. In many cultures, candor is a social sin, only because comfort is the greater idol. We therefore deal with any pain rather than “speaking the truth in love . . . growing up in every way into him . . . ” (Eph. 4:15).
And speaks from personal experience:
My own bitterness story came from a friend. I was injured, and he was oblivious to his own infliction of it. Salt overflowed my wound…
During that time of loneliness, where I knew I was treated wrongly, I even grew out of talking about it. I couldn’t address it without anger or a spirit of pride. I was “better” than that man. I knew “more” than he did. I would “never” do to anyone else what he did to me. The most bitter people are the ones who don’t know they’re bitter! We think we are immune to it.
Wow, that’s convicting: The most bitter people are the ones who don’t know they’re bitter! Anyone for a bit of heart examination? Let me leave you with the call to examination that he gave:
If no one accuses you of bitterness, is it at all possible you have some? Find out: trace any “dead” feeling toward someone or some church back to an event or a conversation. Ruminate in that time or place. Ask yourself why you hang onto it. Ask God to show you exactly—specifically—why have you not been able to have peace?
Then grab the only known medicine proven to heal this type of pain. It is the good news of Christ Jesus…