Seven Signs Bitterness Has Become Boss

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The people I admire most don’t return anger with anger.

I recently watched a friend come under horrific false accusations. They calmly and respectfully laid down healthy boundaries, but they refused to retaliate in anger. The attacks continued for a long period of time and even increased in vitriol. Remarkably, my friend persisted in prayer for his attacker, refused to speak negatively about them, and successfully defeated bitterness.

The Bible is clear about how Christians are to handle bitterness. We’re to refuse to let it have power in our lives. And we don’t have to be rocket scientists to know when it has a stranglehold on our hearts.

 

  1. We talk negatively about the other person. We may try to hide our attitude with a false agenda, but people can see bitterness, even when we’re blind to it. We get annoyed just thinking something positive about the other person. We like it when other people make snide or critical remarks about people we hold bitterness toward. Take the time to be honest with yourself. You’re not hiding anything from God.
  2. We constantly compare ourselves to the other person and get jealous. We see what other people have or how other people are treated and we think, “Hey, I deserve that!”
  3. We avoid “them.” You know what I’m talking about. Moving to the other side of the church. Dodging down another aisle at the store. Not talking to that relative any more. Not going to that group any more. We find ourselves enjoying people less and less.
  4. We’re annoyed when something good happens to “them.” Something inside us wants them to suffer because we think they’ve gotten something we deserve.
  5. We take things personally that aren’t about us. We make assumptions about things without facts. People are against us. People are talking about us. Things aren’t fair. Someone is trying to irritate us.
  6. We complain a LOT about the same things and overgeneralize perceived or actual negative experiences. We develop “tunnel vision” about a person and can only see them from our single, bitter perspective. We hold on to negative perceptions because we’ve rationalized away the positives.
  7. We think the person (or the world) owes us. We feel like we’ve been wronged, we’re owed an apology, and life is unfair.

 

So what’s the answer to bitterness?

Hopefully, we will have the honesty and integrity to see when we’ve given in to sin, repent, and take action to change our heart. Sometimes we may need prompting from the Word or from a loving, brave friend. But left ignored, bitterness will destroy us from the inside out.

Jesus gives the simple (NOT easy) solution for bitterness.

1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus didn’t see himself responsible for responding to abuse and attacks. The word revile is a strong word that literally means to “lambaste” in the manner of attacking and abusing someone. Jesus chose to trust God to make things right. He remained silent.

In the face of abuse, Jesus chose to react with peace, verbally and physically, while trusting God to judge.

Easy? Absolutely not.

Possible? Absolutely, through the power of the Holy Spirit and our conscious choice to lay down what we falsely believe are our so-called “rights.”

He left vengeance in God’s hands. He did not become bitter. He prayed for his enemies’ repentance and best interests (Luke 23:34).

 

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)

The Hardest Book to Write: The Story Behind “The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk”

silent Seduction Cover Image JPG low resI arm-wrestled with God about writing The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

Obviously, he won.

I‘ve compared writing this book to stripping down to my “spiritual Underoos” and walking a fashion runway in front of the world.

Except I was exposing the stuff everybody tries to cover up: our/my silent seduction into self-deception through self-talk.

Our innate ability to believe we’re loving God and others while we rationalize pushing ourselves to the front of the line.

My journey began in a self-revelatory flash.

I was sitting in the office of a Christian school. A mother was standing at the counter, yelling at the secretary. Apparently, the school had enforced their late policy and issued the woman’s daughter a detention for her tenth tardy.

I watched the woman–a church leader–scream at every employee in the room. Suddenly the realization dawned on me that she thought she was doing the right thing. She had no idea that everyone watching her shared a much different opinion of her and her actions.

If they were thinking what I was thinking, they felt sorry for her daughter. Mom’s behavior was embarrassing. Rude. Disrespectful. A poor reflection of a Christian.

And she had no idea. Why? Because she was self-deceived.

Flash. Could I be just like her?

Could I believe I was loving God and people and, instead, be living life to fulfill my own selfish agendas?

Did I actually take pleasure in proving my husband wrong, shaming him, using sarcasm and tone as weapon?

Did I quietly manipulate and control? Did I justify my behavior–things like screaming at other drivers while I was behind the wheel on the interstate or making a co-worker’s promotion all about me?

The truth is, we all plunder and powerplay our way through life, seduced by the monster within.

The good news is that our self-talk was created to be God’s gift to us.

We are hard-wired directly to God through the words that run through our head at 1,300 words a minute.

Our self-talk can be the single-most resource for our spiritual growth if we learn how to harness its power.

Discovering that truth changed my life.

Slowly, life became a moment-by-moment exercise in worship. 

I learned to lean into the power of the “if”–living in expectancy of change and growth through the power of the Holy Spirit. This can be your journey, too. God’s greatest gift to us is that he loves us so much he doesn’t leave us where we are. He changes us. Discovering the power of self-talk is the key that unlocks intimacy with God.

Join me Thursday, April 9th, as I talk more about how self-talk and how it influences our relationships on Focus on the Family.

 

Learning to Listen In: Tools for Self-Talk

talking-to-myself

A few years ago I discovered my self-talk. I mean, I REALLY discovered it. I started listening to the things I said to myself in the privacy of my head, and I didn’t like what I heard.

It was like eavesdropping on someone else, really, as I discovered I told myself I believed one thing but I convinced myself to act in totally different ways.

Love my neighbor? Sure–as long as he wasn’t the idiot cutting me off on the freeway. Then I’d justify my anger.

Honor my husband and kids? Sure–as long as I could throw in some sarcasm and criticism and make sure they knew I knew best.

Long story short, God gave me a peek inside my head so he could strip away the pride and change me. Once I saw the junk inside my head, my heart broke. I went on a mission to learn how to change my thinking (James 1:23-24).

POWER UP: A SIMPLE TOOL

So what did I do?

P: purchased a journal. Nothing fancy. But I’m a teacher, and I was on a mission to become a student of myself.

O: I began to observe myself. I listened to my self-talk and began to ask questions about what I was thinking and what my motives were. I talked less and listened more.

W: I wrote down what I was hearing. And some of the stuff was awful. I began to see that what I thought were good motives were often mixed with pride and selfishness. I saw my need for control and manipulative tendencies.

E: evaluated my self-talk and looked for answers to my thought patterns. At the time, I was in counseling, and I talked to my counselor about them.

R: I began to renew my mind with the truth of the Word of God, accountability with the people of God, and by listening to the conviction of the Spirit of God. We’ll never change until we change. Duh. That means taking off the old and putting on the new.

U: I worked to uproot the strongholds in my life. For me, those areas were control and manipulation. As I mentioned, I worked on those areas with a Christian counselor and watched as my thinking and behavior began to change.

P: prayed for God to reveal lies in my thinking: lies about Myself, lies about Others, lies about Relationships, lies about my Environment/circumstances, and lies about God (MORE God).

Then I did the work. I prayed. I humbled my heart. I listened. I questioned. I listened. I wrote. I learned. I learned more.

And I changed. 

Praise God. He promises to change us and make us more like Jesus through the power of his Spirit. And the most powerful tool to accomplish that goal is tapping into spiritual intimacy through the gift of self-talk.

Photo Credit: TZ Coaching.com