Someone asked me recently, “How and why does this bitterness rise so destructively from within me?”
Bitterness, I have found from my own experience and from working with many others, is a deep seated anger at the injustice of hurt. Like a volcano, bitterness may remain dormant for extended periods only to rise up in manifest anger and then fury strikes.
The anger is often inappropriately pointed but there is always a stimulus, whether we are aware of it or not. The stimulus always takes us back the site of the hurt.
So, whilst we are angry at our spouse or kids, we are affected by that work issue that gnaws away at us from inside. Sure, the family concerns are there, and they certainly prove to be frustrations.
But anger burns from beneath.
Bitterness that fuels anger turns an issue of annoyance into something regretful.
And the worst thing is the actual targets of our anger are none the wiser.
I’m not sure I subscribe to easy forgiveness. Forgiving matters and people isn’t as easy as reeling out a biblical cliché.
Forgiveness, again from my personal observations, is engendered when we get the focus off the one who needs to be forgiven, and we put the blowtorch on ourselves.
When we get honest about what we are doing wrong, that’s when forgiveness of another gets clearer. Until we are honest, we just issue our anger the endorsement it needs: that denial of pride.
Bitterness rises up because it is as yet undealt with. We may be doing the best we can, but it’s a process. We have to find the right mix of patience and persistence in dealing with the pride that rails at the injustices that are meted out to us all at one point or other.
What do we do about the hurt we inflict on others?
We need, first, to take accountability for our actions; to apologise, having first understood from them just how they felt and what it cost them.
Dr. Gary Chapman suggests there are five languages of apology. Two of them are covered above. But we also need to be prepared to make restitution, repent adequately enough that repeat performances of anger do not occur, and finally, seek their forgiveness.
Anger insists it be dealt with or it will destroy.
When bitterness rises, best we are aware so we can cool and smother those flames. It always pays to remember that the people we get angry with are not the people we are really angry with. We too often fight with our spouses and children over issues we are vexed about at work or in church or because of stress.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.