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    The Grudge Monster

    Five ways to deal with bitterness. October 11, 2016 by Colonel Lindsay Rowe
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    There's often a lot of pain and hurt behind the smiles at church on Sunday mornings. If the things that haunt us were projected on a screen, we'd all be looking for a hole to crawl into. Maybe it's lying or cheating on your income taxes. Maybe it was a little thing, but it's eating away at you, making you feel anxious, hurt or depressed. Or maybe the shoe is on the other foot—you feel like you're the victim, and bitterness and resentment are knocking on the door.

    Every one of us will suffer evil at some point in our lives. Some of us will have much more than our share of it. We live in a fallen world. And people, including Christians, do all kinds of strange and terrible things. People will lie to you. Somebody you trust will gossip about you. The gossip might not be true, but it spreads like poison and you can't stop it. A mother-in-law might interfere in your marriage. A roommate or spouse might say something in anger that cuts so deeply it seems the wound will never heal.

    All of us have opportunities to extend love or cherish hatred. But you can't afford the price of letting that bitterness grow in your soul.

    Bitterness is when you allow hurt to become hate. When I was a kid and had a cut or scratch, my mom would say, “Don't pick at it, Lindsay.” She knew picking at it would cause infection. But I didn't always listen and that meant more radical treatment. We do the same with our hurts, don't we? We pick at them. We stoke the fire and fan the flames to relive the pain of the hurt. It's crazy, but it hurts so good that we can't let go of it. That's what bitterness does. It hangs on to an offence, a hurt, until it grows into a monster.

    So what should we do? Here are five ways to deal with bitterness.

    1.       Don't Let Bitterness Build

    The Bible says that God buries our sins in the deepest sea and doesn't remember them anymore. He loves us so much, he chooses to forget. We can't always forget because we don't have that capacity. But love doesn't keep a record of wrongs. And if we're going to get along with people, the best way to overcome bitterness and resentment is to not let it happen. Remember what Jesus said when Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone who sinned against him? Seventy times seven (see Matthew 18:22). In other words, forgiveness should be our ongoing attitude. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not just an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude.” Don't let bitterness and resentment build. Forgive and move on.

    2.       Decide to Forgive

    The second thing we can do is make a conscious decision to forgive. The American pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick recalled a conversation he overheard between his father and mother at the breakfast table one morning. “Tell Harry he can mow the grass today if he feels like it,” his father said, then added, “Tell him he'd better feel like it.” Forgiveness is not a matter of whether you feel like it or not. It's a command from our heavenly Father. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts.” How? “As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). In other words, “Forgive if you feel like it. By the way, you'd better feel like it.”

    3.       Take the Initiative

    A third thing we can do is take the initiative. Sometimes when we've been wounded, we sit back and wait, and pray that the person who hurt us will come and fall at our feet and beg for forgiveness. Then we'll forgive them. But that seldom happens. Most of the time, if we are bitter or resentful, we have to decide to forgive and take the initiative. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Go tactfully, but take the initiative.

    4.       Release the Offender

    When you begin to forgive, you say, “God, I turn this person over to you.” You're not saying they didn't hurt you or that you were in the wrong. You're saying you're not the judge or the executioner. You're saying, “Lord, I'm going to trust any vengeance taken by you.” It's not your assignment to make somebody pay. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.”

    5.       Look to the Future

    Pay attention to the road ahead, not the road behind you. Believe that forgiveness is possible. Believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life forgiveness can take place. It's comforting to know that God forgives us, that he throws our sins into the sea and chooses to forget. Are you willing to cast your hurts and pain, along with the infections of bitterness and resentment, into the same sea?

    Colonel Lindsay Rowe is the corps officer at Oshawa Temple in Ontario.

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