Bitterness... That's A Hard Pill To Resist
Grudges… boy do I have a few. I think I am the king of holding them. It’s been a part of my upbringing and is a real part of my culture.
If someone does something to you, you have to retaliate with no remorse. It’s been instilled in me due to my training as a combat soldier. You hit me; I hit you back with double. I grew up in an era of enemies. White people, the Soviets, other high schools, terrorists, and so on. Everyone one who wasn’t with me was against me.
And God forbid you disrespect me… that was unforgivable! In my younger days, it could get real ugly real fast for you…
It carried over into my personal life as I was acutely aware of any kind of disrespect directed toward me both real and imagined. These types of thoughts conjured up images of cheating, lying, jealousy… you name it, and I would accuse you of it! Sometimes I was correct in my assumptions, most of the time I was not. But in any case, I would hold that grudge for months, even years. I kept that poison in my heart even when I said that I had forgiven and forgotten. Held on to it so that I could use it again when I need to go on the offensive. My anger, my grudge became my weapon and I was good at wielding it. I held on to bitterness because that was the only way I knew how to cope with my fears and my anger. I had no other example and I felt like this was the only way to be as a black man in this world.
What a way to live.
I think I walked around looking for the smallest indiscretions against me so that I could “go off” on someone. That’s what I lived for. It was a very tense way to be and, now looking back, a miserable way to live.
What a miserable person I was. Bitter. Black and sad.
I was lucky though. Someone came along and made me look at what I was. What I had developed into. The whole time I’m thinking I’m normal. I’m cool. Edgy… tough guy. This person asked me a very simple question that hit me hard in the chest and made me think about how I truly saw myself. He simply asked me…
“Do you think you’re a truly good man?”
I had never been asked a question quite like that before. Of course I thought that I was a good person. I had never really set out to hurt anyone in my life. Never really, intentionally, struck out to injure anyone. But sometimes my actions did that very thing both physically and emotionally. I chalked it up to “that’s just how life is… gimme fifty feet, bitch!”
Of course I told him I thought I was. He asked me another question…
“Are you angry with someone right now in your life?”
I told him I had some people in my life that I felt had slighted me and I had chosen not to be friends with them anymore. I explained that it was better to distance myself from them because they brought out the worst in me. This was some “Darrell-double-talk” for “if I ever get a chance, I’m going to make them sorry for making me feel like crap…”
He looked at me and said, “The bitterness you hold in your heart makes you a bad person, a bad man in the eyes of God. So, you are not a good person. More importantly, you’re not even a man in God’s eyes.”
I was not happy with this answer and began to argue the point. He then gave me a book, “Bait of Satan” by John Bevere. He told me to read it.
I left him that day with a weird feeling. I actually felt a little bitterness towards him! He had no right to question my being a man! He had no idea what my life was like and what I had been through.
Reluctantly I skimmed through the book and did not really absorb what was in the words. I put it away and did not look through it for a while.
About a month ago I was going through some things spiritually, and thought about the book again. Some old baggage from the past had cropped up in my present and I was feeling a little angry and bitter. I felt that old thing coming back! That bitterness and resentment. I was revving myself up to be the man I had been taught to be: the angry black guy!
I was in a different state of mind since the last time I attempted to read through it and so I decided to give another chance.
I won’t get too detailed, I’ll let you cop a copy and read through it yourself, but I will say this about the message this book has taught me; the bitterness I’ve felt in my heart toward certain individuals in my life is not of God. The hatred and malice I’ve espoused toward people does not make me a man. It makes me less than a man. God genuinely does not appreciate anything less than total forgiveness, the same as He has shown to us. Who am I to believe that my judgment is better than His? Who am I to go against His command to love my enemies? I’m no one if I do. I’m less than a man of God if I do otherwise.
Satan would love for each of us to walk in bitterness and resentment as he does. He would love for us to show no grace or forgiveness. To look down our noses at others. He wants us to hate one another. He loves it when we say we hate someone or when we talk trash about one another. He loves our jealousy and pride. When we practice all these kinds of behaviors, we show kinship with Satan… and Satan is no brother of mine!
I think I’m in a better place now. I am still working to erase the vestiges of my past anger issues. It’s not easy, but I’m getting there. I have some great friends, a woman in my life who understands me, kids that support me, a book that shows me the correct path and a God who truly loves me. How can I be bitter about anything these days?
I pose the same question to my friends…
Do you think you’re a truly good person? Why?