Have you ever been so angry about an unfair thing that you’ve scared yourself?
Anger, as well as fear, are not signs that you are carrying unforgiveness. Anger is a part of the grieving process and this unfair thing certainly is a loss of something. Fear is a loss of control of what you know and this unfair thing has changed your entire world.
Let me first apologize to you for anyone who has spoken shame into your life because you are struggling to forgive someone. Forgiveness is a Christian fundamental and it is also complicated. I preached a 15-week series on forgiveness just to teach this fundamental of faith. It is complicated. Forgiveness is a journey that begins in pain and ends in hope. You are on a journey. Anger is a part of that journey.
But unforgiveness grows in rumination. Remember that forgiveness is God’s gift to human hearts that are prone to turn hurt into hate. You are hurt. I’m worried about that hurt turning into hate.
Anger and bitterness are different. Bitterness is an option for you. In response to anger, you can choose between bitterness and forgiveness. One of those is a brave decision. One of those feels like a friend of protection.
One of those protections is we believe bitterness gives expectations that God and/or those around us will fix the unfair, get us back to our normal, and will give us the apologies we think we deserve. I so badly want the unfair fixed. I understand this. I want to be justified for my feelings.
The core of bitterness is not hate but hurt. This unfair has changed your life, probably for forever. This hurt is real. Thus why bitterness feels like your friend. It is some way to control how this unfair thing has caused you to lose control of your life.
To try to regain any semblance of control, we can choose bitterness and sweet revenge. I can so easily justify that if people aren’t going to be made to pay for what they’ve done to me externally, at least I can make them pay by harboring bitterness against them. The only legal revenge most of us have access to is resentment.
Resentment does not lead to the brave decision of forgiveness. Resentment sounds like hardness. It sounds like your soul is becoming hard.
Then there is this soft thought. Bitterness isn’t found in those whose hearts are hard but rather in whose hearts are most tender. Bitter people are not necessarily hard-hearted. Bitter people have been made to feel unsafe.
When you already live with the unfair, to feel unsafe is just too much. You feel pure fear of being hurt again. You search for anyway to feel safe again. Bitterness feels like that friend that makes you feel safe again. Resentment feels like that extra protection.
Protection becomes the motivation behind bitterness to protect the tender heart you desire.
But bitterness lies. Bitterness turns the hurt into hate.
There is so much hate in this world right now.
Bitterness will not only rob you of love, empathy, hope, creativity, and joy. It will lead you on a path to start dehumanizing others. Bitterness will not be satisfied until your soft heart is changed and it has taught you how to hate your neighbor and to distrust God.
There is so much dehumanizing in this world right now.
Ephesians 4:32 encourages us to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. A practice of forgiving one another leads to kindness and tenderheartedness.
We are coming full circle. Bitterness hardens your heart. Forgiveness makes you tenderhearted.
Our world needs more tenderhearted and less dehumanizing.
If only we let go of our justified reasons to not forgive. If only we understood forgiveness better. This brave decision of forgiveness is one of the core fundamentals of the Christian faith for a reason. It is the way of Jesus.