Mar 01, 2010
The Bitterness Phenomenon
I think it’s interesting to track the evolution of “bitterness” from what was said in scripture to what is being taught in Christianity today. Bitterness is only mentioned in passing three or four times in the New Testament. When listening to some people teach on the subject, you would think that Jesus traveled around doing nothing but warning the world about this terrible thing we call bitterness. Christians today have learned to fear the label of bitterness more than hell itself.
In some circles the name-calling and manipulation surrounding this subject is so bad that it’s eerily reminiscent of the Salem witch trials. It’s become a peer pressure thing that is used to control and silence people from speaking their minds. Anyone who speaks their mind or bucks the system is likely to be accused of being bitter, and once that label is applied, they’re basically burned at the stake. It amazes me at how afraid the average Christian is of getting angry or bitter for any reason whatsoever. They're even more afraid of being precieved as bitter or angry by others. Anyone who has been in todays church world for more than a day or two knows that the moment a person is precieved as bitter, they become instantaneously untrustworthy in every regard. That word contaminates their motives, their integrity, their voice, their opinions, their alibi and their person, their everything. In just an instant, a person can go from being respected, integris, hope worthy, educated, revered and cherished, to being nothing more than a silly joke of a person that no one takes seriously.
Christians fear being called bitter because they know in their own heart what THEY think and do when someone else is given that title. We immediately have feelings of disrespect, scorn, contempt, and self-righteous pity. No matter what the accused person says in their own defense, they can’t be trusted because their words are contaminated and full of poison. We treat them like they have a contagious disease and are out to lead us astray. It’s basically an excuse to totally write a person off in an instant.
Amazingly, our teachings have so programed our minds that if the very thought that a person might be bitter enters our brains, we instantly shut down like a computer firewall protecting itself against a virus. I think for the most part, we can’t even help ourselves anymore. It’s become an involuntary knee-jerk reaction that just snaps the moment the “B” word is spoken. Our ears instantly become deaf, our attention span goes blank, and the walls of self protection shoot up. It’s like from the moment we hear or think that word, we don’t even think we’re talking to a real person anymore. In many ways it reminds me of the term "Commie" in the 1960s. The mere suggestion that a person my be a communist was all it took to completely destroy a persons reputation in an instant.
Several months ago I posted a blog entitled, “Are You Bitter” that basically pointed out that people SHOULD be angry about the spiritual abuse that is happening on a daily basis in the Christian world. The point of the article was to confront people’s passive attitude concerning the pain that is caused in the hearts of people at the hands of organized religion. It was nothing short of amazing to see how many people couldn’t get past the fact that I used the word “bitter” instead of “anger.” Entire debates broke out as to whether or not the words are interchangeable. People missed the whole heart of the article because the moment they saw the “B” word in writing their brains went into shut-down-mode, and they became blind to the heart of what was being said.
I have found that many Christians use the bitterness topic as an excuse to retreat from anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. If they tell themselves that the person they’re talking to is bitter, they give themselves a full pardon from having to listen to any part of the conversation. It’s a way (in their mind) to commit a legal character assassination and the easiest and most accepted way to simply write someone’s words and message off without giving it a second thought.
My sermon, “Losing Your Religion” was given to an Alabama pastor and his staff to listen to by the worship leader. He later told me that the entire staff sat quietly in the board room and listened to the sermon together. Many of them were visibly moved and challenged. He said their countenance resembled that of a person who had been stranded on an island for 20 years and had finally found a boat. There was hope in the air. Others were scribbling notes as the CD played. As the sermon neared the end, some of them had their head in their hands, and others were moved to tears. The moment the CD was finished, the head pastor cleared his throat and said two simple words that instantaneously changed the spirit of the entire room; “He’s bitter.” Within seconds, everyone in the room was back to normal as it they hadn’t heard a single word. Tears were dried and gone. The prospect of freedom had escaped them and those who had taken notes tossed them in the trash on their way out. Not another word was spoken about the message from that day forward.
Though I suspect that the comment section below this article with be inundated with people trying to school me as to the difference between bitterness and anger, the bottom line is that human beings cannot distinguish any difference in their heart. It’s the same no matter how you slice it. If you have a fear of being bitter; you fear being angry, because to your heart, they’re one and the same. If you look up the word “bitter” in the dictionary, the first word used to define it is the word “anger.”
If Christians are made to fear bitterness, it goes without saying that they will naturally fear getting angry as well. They’ll naturally view any form of anger as a prerequisite to bitterness. This is a significant problem for about a million reasons, but the first and perhaps most powerful reason is that if a person rejects any form of anger in their life, they basically cripple themselves emotionally. They literally have to reject themselves.
For us to successfully prohibit ourselves from experiencing anger at any level, we have to remove entire circuit boards from our brains. The problem is that within the fabric of those very circuit boards is a little thing called common sense. Once those circuit boards are removed, common sense goes out the door with it. Our ability to empathize with others is also taken away. Even our discernment into spiritual truth becomes stunted. To forcefully remove any emotion from the human psyche, a person must remove themselves from themselves. I believe that this is exactly what this generation of Christian people have done. It amazes me how many people openly admit that they haven’t the slightest idea who they are. I honestly think that all of this can be traced back to our mindset on the subject of bitterness.
It’s amazing to count the number of Free Believers whose eyes were opened to the lies of organized religion the moment they allowed themselves to become unashamedly angry at something that happened to them. While anger and bitterness certainly have the potential to destroy our lives if we allow either to control us, I also believe that both anger and bitterness are the precursor to finding freedom from bondage. In my experience, the people who refuse to allow themselves to get angry, end up finding themselves in the deepest possible bondage to their religion. They’re literally blind. The people who finally allow themselves to get angry, find that their eyes pop wide open to their present state of bondage. Through their anger they are able to see exactly what is happening to them with amazing clarity. I have found that anger is one of the greatest motivators in the world. When we look through the Old Testament it is amazing to see how often people used their anger to make a change or bring about a revolution. Today however, we have been taught that to even have a small trace of anger is a weakness.
I am convinced that some pastors and leaders repeatedly place unwanted stigmas and stereotypes over bitterness because it’s a way to ensure continued silence and submission to their authority. They know that the moment someone allows themselves to get angry; their eyes will be opened and their mouth will NOT remain shut. An angry person is more likely to state the obvious and ask embarrassing questions that everyone else is terrified to ask. If you can convince a crowd of people that getting angry is uncool and even dangerous, you’ll own that entire crowd.
Bitterness is, for most Free Believers, the exit door from their religious bondage. It’s interesting that regardless of the terminology and tone that I use when preaching this message of freedom, there is always someone who accuses me of being bitter. They don’t bring this accusation because my countenance and tone was hissing in bitterness. They accuse me of it because in their minds they cannot fathom anyone having the balls to say the things I say unless they were angry. They also use the accusation of bitterness as an excuse to shut themselves down to what I’m saying so they won’t have to deal with it. It’s like a “get out of listening to Darin free card.”
Many people mistake confidence and conviction for being bitterness and anger because both mindsets seem to produce the same results. In both scenarios a person isn’t afraid to standup and boldly proclaim the truth. This is why for the last hundred years there has been a relentless campaign in Christianity to instill a fear of anger in people. If people become afraid of getting angry, they’ll follow along with anything they’re told to do. Make no mistake about it, when any of us buy into this way of thinking and refuse to allow our hearts to express aggravation, indignation, irritation or exasperation; we lose.
When I hear people make comments about Free Believers, calling them “a bunch of bitter people who were hurt by the church,” I see exactly what they are doing. They’re using the feared labels of Christianity to lock the cell doors of those who are still in, and they are manipulating those who have left to shut up and sink back into blindness and bondage.
When I watch people begin this path of freedom, I can literally count the steps that they’ll go through like clock work. The first hump that most people have to overcome is that constant inner battle and fear that they’re being bitter or critical. They’ve been taught to fear the appearance of being critical like the plague. They’ll say this over and over when expressing what’s happening to them spiritually. Almost every sentence they use begins with, “I don’t want to sound bitter.....but,” or “I don’t mean to be critical.....but.” For many well meaning folks this is the biggest obstacle they have to overcome before they can find freedom. They beat themselves to death over and over because everything within them is pointing out the truth and noticing the lies. The mere act of knowing when they’re being lied to makes them feel like they’re being critical and unsubmissive. Words like “critical” are cleverly and purposefully tucked next to words like “bitterness” for a very specific reason. If you can get someone to fear being critical, they’ll never open their mouths again. In many Christian circles the word “critical” has become the gold ring in the snout of controlled Christians. We’ve become so hypersensitive to it that our “leaders” can effortlessly tug us around wherever they want like helpless dumb animals, and we’ll follow quietly because we are so afraid of opening our mouths and sounding critical.
Our modern day view of bitterness is simply not scriptural. Yes, there is scripture that warns people from allowing bitterness to control their entire lives, but there isn’t scripture that would justify our current perceptions of bitterness that we have today. We’ve become terrified of it. If we feel even the slightest bit of irritation over something, we become instantly nervous that a root of bitterness is about to get us and drag us to hell. I’m sorry, but this message simply is NOT found anywhere in the bible.
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