Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thoughts On Strangling Grace

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
-Hebrews 12.15

Forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sinned against me.
-The Lord’s Prayer

Bitterness strangles grace. It erupts over disappointments, pain of (perceived) unjust treatment, hurt feelings, and defiles me. It also infects and defiles others, for in hearing of the wrongs you have suffered—I know, who doesn’t like to hear of the “evil” of others!—people take up your offense.

Bitter people find it impossible to keep it to their selves but insist upon spewing it all over others with their angry, hateful attitudes, actions, and words, and then wonder why so many people keep them at an arm’s distance. Bitterness not only strangles God’s grace but the grace of others, as well.

As I grow comfortable with my bitterness, it warps my calibration skills, where, in my ears, your honesty is heard as hatefulness, and my venomous sniping at and criticism of others as “the unvarnished truth.” With a heart filled with unresolved issues, of course it all sounds so reasonable to me.

Long-term bitterness establishes a wall of invulnerability around my heart because I grow to believe that desire, hope, love, and the external world, are all danger zones. Such defense mechanisms keep me from the love of God and others, leaving me with a shriveled soul.

Bitterness toward God springs up because I am angry over what I don’t have and, therefore, ungrateful for what is available. Here, my pain moves from anxiety to despair and bitterness. In doing this, my heart is no longer resting in God with a faith that He knows what is needed for my highest good. And my soul begins disintegrating.

Bitterness starts with the hurt, the offense, or the (perceived) injustice. Rather than taking the experience to God and asking for His light and grace, I silently plant the seed of bitterness in my soul, caressing it like Gollum’s precious ring. I then nourish it with constant attention, purposefully blocking out any other interpretation of the event, any understanding that is contrary to my basis for being angry. I know what happened. I know what you meant and intended. I am a mind reader, for crying out loud: your words and explanations are only denials and deflections. And anyway, why should I give you an opportunity to ask forgiveness? I’d lose all the power I have over you.

The bitter-weed killer is light and love. When I am hurt, rather than expressing anger at the individual, I go and share: “You hurt me.” Put it all out there so that the light can dispel shadows and darkness. Yes, anger is easier and less messy. Anger condemns and relegates the offending party to the outer reaches of my universe, until they kneel and kiss my ring. There are no mitigating circumstances, no room for self-doubt or humility on my part, no place for love believing the best; only my edict of “Guilty as charged.” Less messy, for sure, but also insures there will be no healing or transformation.

Eating the delicious morsels of past wrongs against me, I am feeding on death. Whereas love keeps no record of wrongs, bitterness is rooted in remembrance. Until I deal with and let go of such memories, all other works, everything I am doing for love’s sake, for God’s sake, is corrupted. Unforgiving people remain unforgiven. (See Lord’s Prayer)

And if you know an individual is hurt or offended with you? Jesus: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that you brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

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