Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Skeleton at the feast is YOU: Battling Bitterness

I want to ask you a question and then talk about it some today.

Have we forgiven correctly if we hold bitterness?

Have we forgiven correctly if these statements come from our mouth?

Why should they experience happiness after what happened?

That person does not deserve good after what he did to me and he definitely does not deserve to have a good time with my child.

Why is he coming out of this like none of this was his fault?

I have to admit I have said a few of those things – one of them is my favorite, but I won’t share with you which because I think they are all wrong – at least I think that is what I think. Bear with me, I want to walk you through my thinking and see if we come out on the same page in the end. You have a second? Good, get comfortable.

Let’s start with a dictionary.

Merian Webster defines Bitter as
          Marked by intensity or severity
          Accompanied by severe paid or suffering
          Being relentlessly determined
          Exhibiting intense animosity

Animosity is defined by Webter as ill will or resentment tending toward active hostility.

So, now lets look at Forgiveness (or forgive)
          To give up resentment of or claim to requital for
          To grant relief from payment of
          To cease to feel resentment against (an offender)

The antonym of forgive is resent.

Now that we have the sixth grade English lesson over let’s talk about this conundrum we have ourselves in because if you are anything like me it’s hard to give up that resentment when our scars still have not healed.

Let me tell you that this is not an x-wife thing or a woman thing. You could have bitterness towards your parents, towards an old bully from school or someone who has hurt you and your family.

I once sat in a sermon led by Barry Jones at Irving Bible Church and he called what we do Relational Pong. Most of you remember the lovely Atari game Pong – you know two paddles and a little ball that bounced back and forth on the screen. Your only job was to give your opponent back what he was giving you (the little white ball). Melinda and I would play this game for hours, but I don’t think I was that good at it then.

As an adult have mastered, with some embarrassment, the game of Relational Pong. You give me a zinger and I will give it right back to you. You raise your voice at me and I will scream even louder at you. It’s not good, it’s not healthy and it’s nothing to be awarded for.

Barry Jones, said The only way to stop playing Pong is to forgive.

In Ephesians Paul wrote

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry – but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life. Ephesians 4:31-32 (MSG)

He continued this point with

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)

Before I go any further let’s talk about what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is not the same as Forgetting. There are things you could never forget and there are things are not healthy for you to forget. The last thing I want you to do is to act like this never happened. If you know me you know that I have had more things happen in my first 34 years on this earth then most people. I have been tested, I have failed, I have been hurt and I have hurt others. Never once did I stand in front of anyone and say oh let’s just forget that. Every bit of my struggle has molded me into the person I am today – it has caused me to evaluate things differently and make new decision to walk new paths in my life. Please don’t forget – that could be dangerous, but forgive.

Forgiveness is not the same as Condoning. As Ephesians 4:26 says above You do well to be angry. Forgiveness is not saying that what they did to you is ok. It’s also not making excuses like Oh, he was in a bad spot in his life. Jones said in his sermon, God does not want us to excuse evil. The first step in forgiving someone is condemning them – you have to say what they did.

Forgiveness is not the same as Reconciling. I feel as if my old best friend and I have forgiven each other for the actions that caused our 20 year friendship to end, but I have to tell you we will probably never reconcile. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean a magic wand has been waved and things will go back to the way they were before. God wants us to reconcile with each other, though. He wants us to love each other, but forgiveness is a process and no wand, no matter how much it costs, can put things back to the way they were before. Reconciliation requires two parties – forgiveness is something you can do alone, it all starts with your heart.

Oh, I could sit here and recite many scriptures from the bible that tell you, you need to forgive like Matthew 6:14-5 and Mark 11:25, but what I want to tell you is I feel your pain. I understand the feeling of wanting grace for yourself, but justice for the person who did you harm. I have made myself curl up in a ball and cry for hours over the bitterness and resentment I hold against people who have wronged me. Forgiving someone is a painful process, but not forgiving them or not forgiving them properly is far more painful. Seriously, look at it, I mean who was I hurting crying in self pity about things that caused me pain. Am I hurting him? Does he feel anything as I am locked in my bedroom crying? Nope, he feels nothing – I am not doing anything to him, I am just causing pain to myself. I am the one licking my wounds and feeding my anger.

Fedrick Buecher was quoted as saying, of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is the possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back –in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

The Skeleton at the feast is YOU. Harboring resentment, holding on to the past and not fully forgiving is sucking the life out us.

Now you ask – Ok, Dana how in the world do I get the bitterness and resentment out of my life so I can forgive fully and correctly?

To this question I throw my hands up in the air and say I don’t know so I suggest you pray about it all. Was that a copout? Let me tell you this dear friend, I am still working on it too and as I learn new things I will share them with you. We can beat this together. I just need one promise from you: pray for me as I will pray for you.

I invite you to go to Irving Bible Church’s website and listen to Barry Jones’ sermon from November 8, 2009 – you can find it here:

If you are a new or re-committed believer and need a bible please let me know! I prefer the NIV Starting Point Study Bible which is out of print, but I have two copies on my bookcase that are eager to find new homes and I will track down twenty more if I need to do so. You can read more about my love for the NIV Starting Point Study Bible, here.

Want to pray, but not sure how to even go about it? You can read more about prayer, here.

And just to make sure all my bases are covered if I say find it here all you have to do is click on the word here and you will directed to the blog entry I am mentioning. I want to make sure everyone gets to where they need to be. 

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