If you’re just joining me, please read Part One for context.
I’m not known as an “angry” person. I don’t have a bad temper and I’m not easily provoked. In fact, I typically shy away from confrontation in favor of a “can’t we just all be friends?” attitude. Because of this desire for everything to remain on an even keel, I tend to forgive quickly and easily and don’t harbor grudges; something for which I’ve always been grateful. But then we had “the incident” occur and I entered new territory.
It’s amazing to me where all my mind has been. One minute I’d be thinking about what to make for dinner, then, quite suddenly, I’d be having a conversation – no, a screaming match – with our accuser in my head. I’d dress this person down, right to their face, with their back in a corner. I won’t go any further with my narrative on this point; just suffice to say that the rest wasn’t pretty. Had this scenario been an isolated incident, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it. However, it wasn’t. I found myself thinking about what they’d done ALL the time. I thought about what might’ve happened and allowed those thoughts to play out, over and over, in my mind. It even invaded my sleep; me, the passive peace-maker, exacting vengeance in my dreams.
Every day, when my man got home from work, I’d pepper him with questions, as it was eventually uncovered that the accuser was the actual perpetrator of the crimes. With every consequence that was handed down, I would celebrate with “they got what they deserved,” “now they won’t be able to hurt anyone else,” and “I hope they get locked up.” On top of all this (I’m horrified to even write it), because this person was from a different ethnic group, I found myself leery of our other employees of that same ethnicity. In my mind I felt justified in these thoughts, because, after all, we were wronged.
Then, during a recent quiet time, I read this verse from Hebrews:
Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Hebrews 12:15 NIV
I felt a conviction in my spirit, as I suddenly became aware of how this was effecting my thought life, and consequently, my heart. I was especially aware of the words “trouble you, corrupting many.” It’s interesting how you can think you’ve just got stuff in your own mind that is just “your stuff”, when in reality, you’re spilling that bitterness out onto others. In talking about this situation with others, I was actually committing my own form of slander; venomous words dripped from my tongue against this person, tainting the listener’s thoughts and driving my own bitter root further into my heart.
I’m ashamed to say that I considered all this, but I didn’t immediately respond to the conviction; I carried my bitter root around a few more days until Sunday rolled around and our pastor began his sermon called “HOSTAGE: Poison.” He opened with none other than Hebrews 12:15! Then, he listed the four characteristics of a bitter person:
- They justify their bitterness.
- They become overly critical.
- They secretly celebrate the misfortune of others.
- They write off entire groups of people.
I sat, stunned. I, the peace-loving, non-judgmental friend to all, was a bitter person.
The rest of the sermon was, of course, centered on “killing” the poison of bitterness. How? Through forgiveness.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
I came home and spent some time with God. I unloaded. I prayed for Him to help me forgive this person. I felt a lot better, but still, something wasn’t right. Then, He spoke to my spirit…”you haven’t prayed for them.” I smiled because I had just told one of my Wednesday Girls that, by praying for someone that has wronged you, or someone for whom you just don’t feel like praying, God will change your heart.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.
Matthew 5:43-45 MSG
So, I took my own advice and heeded God’s call: I prayed. And I have continued each day, making a conscious decision to forgive; asking God to replace each vengeful thought with one of compassion. He’s been faithful.
It’s really a slippery slope when you or someone you love has been wronged. You can quickly find that you’ve slid into a miry pit, with your heart becoming root-bound with bitterness. Ironically, the only way to be free is to forgive; releasing ourselves from the pit and releasing our enemies to the One better equipped to handle them.
I’m up, out of the pit.
Healing a little more every day, and praying God’s mercy on my enemy and what they face.
And, by the grace of God, meaning it.