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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 salemit’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 commiedon’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 personsand 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 earthose 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 circuitremoved, 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 eyepeople 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 standmouthup 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 pigspecific 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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Comments

  1. Gravatar
    lionwoman

    Great blog, Darin! I am wondering though, if there is an epidemic of very real bitterness among a lot of today's Christians who have had their voice taken away for so many years. It might have been simple anger at first, but since people aren't allowed to be anything but happy in the institution, that anger gets swept under the rug and festers..

  2. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I'm sure there is, however I'm not sure that even with these people we could say that bitterness has "taken over their lives." I have personally found that very few people ever get to the point where they are controlled by bitterness. There are do doubt many people who are very bitter right now, but I still don't think it's an unhealthy bitterness. For the most part, I think it's a building bitterness that will ultimately result in a revolution.

  3. Gravatar
    Justin Shively

    Right on Darin. I'm convinced a person HAS to become angry for a season in order to be truly free. Being lied to hurts, and should make us angry. My anger now is on behalf of those I love who are still drinking the koolaid that the machine feeds them.

  4. Gravatar
    marie

    Darin, This topic was so much on my mind yesterday that my eyes were pretty wide when I was reading it today. My personal theory is that for those who feel that anger/bitterness is unacceptable, it can be focused inward and manifest as depression and anxiety. I should say, that is my experience. But a bit o' bitter ain't the end of the world...it can be a new beginning.

  5. Gravatar
    Laurie Jackson

    I'm so glad you mention this Darin... because I seem to come in and out of being bitter... today I'm way in it! I've been out of church for a year... do you know that no one has called... not that I wanted them to or needed them to... but it just affirms how FRICKEN SHALLOW.. it all was... and I was one of the FRICKEN POPULAR ONES... worship leader , funny as HELL! encourager... very sincere in my concern for others... but I suppose it goes both ways... I have not been there or called either... i'm just fricken mad as hell today... and I really don't want to even say "fricken"... i'd rather say what I'm "really" thinking... :) thanks Darin... I just wanted to be heard...

  6. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I seriously think that if we don't allow ourselves to get this angry, we are doomed to repeat it all again in a few years. I'd rather leave angry as hell and never go back then leave and deny angry emotions and come right back to it like a dog returns to it's vomit.

  7. Gravatar
    Heather Sterling

    Oh God.... finally I think I am getting it. I really was trained so much against "bitterness" (Christlike).... but today as I read this, I can see that I have passed that milepost by quite a ways, finally. It reminds me of women who have been sexually abused as a child. They lose their "voice". I remember the time I finally was able to scream out "NOOOOOOO"!!!!! This is what makes us different from the animals (for better or worse) in that we have voices. And we must use them. It's not to focus so much on the abuse and the damage, but to be FREE!!! You can't be free when you are fearing that you might offend someone who wants to manipulate and control you. When Luther nailed that paper to the door, he was screaming, with words, NOOOOOOO! And he was also saying, FREEDOM!

  8. Gravatar
    Heidi Venie

    Great article! This has been my experience exactly, and unfortunately I have been on both ends of the spectrum. The "bitters" walked around with a scarlet letter and the "non-bitters" knew not to associate with them. It was taught to keep a safe distance from the bitters so their little bitterness monkey could not somehow jump onto your back. Their words carried no weight or value and any type of conversation with said bitters was snuffed out. If ever a differing opinion or thought was expressed you were immediately corrected and warned of the bitterness monster just waiting to attack any and all unsuspecting victims, or offenders, depending how high up in the leadership circle you were! My church's punchline was "Don't get BITTER, get BETTER!" It's a good thing I got angry instead! lol

  9. Gravatar
    Vincenzo

    Darrin, well written post. If I could shift the focus a little here. In addition to anger, I think ultimately many of these teachings warp many of the passionate emotions we were created to feel so that our emotional responses are no longer natural but manufactured, programmed and redirected. (Notice that many Charismatics have a common language and mannerisms?) What ends up is an emotionally lopsided individual.

  10. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Very well said Vincenzo! Heidi and Heather, as always you both rock the house.

  11. Gravatar
    jenny

    Not sure if I'm on the right track here but I suspect "having a pity party" and "feeling sorry for yourself" are other similar but perhaps less "Biblical" expressions. The moment you complain anything is not right or you are hurt you are just "having a pity party" and feeling sorry for yourself. Though we can be really guilty of that at times it became an acusation that we could be afraid of if we put a step out of line. It became an excuse not to listen to what a person was saying.

  12. Gravatar
    sue

    Good post. I love this line, "Amazingly, our church 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."

    Indeed!!!

  13. Gravatar
    Annette Presley

    Great blog! My child came home one Sunday with a paper saying we should keep the 4th commandment by going to church on Sunday. I, naturally, got bitter and told my child the truth about the Sabbath and when the pastor found out he was quite offended that I would question anything my child was taught at church and I'm thinking I just don't want my child to go through the religious bondage I had to go through. I figure I can either be bitter or in bondage and being in bondage is just not an option for me anymore.

  14. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Who would have thought that avoiding anger for fear of bondage would end up being the cause of an even grater bondage? I think most of us can relate to this. It wasn't until I listened to what I was angry about that I was finally able to leave the cage of religion.

  15. Gravatar
    Lonnie

    Great post Darin, Heidi and Heather you both do rock. I love what Heather says about freedom, reminds me of the awakening that is also going on in the secular/political arena. If we are not allowed to recognize and be angry about issues then we will never speak out against wrongs, because thats politically incorrect--being bitter is the same it's just the words that we use at church, but both cause us to loose our FREEDOM. Seems the same revolution is taking place in both realms. I am not so sure that the event is so seperate as we might first think.!?!!

  16. Gravatar
    virginia Pearce

    if you don't express anger you naturally get depressed
    and a whole generation of people are on drugs for depression. I never saw the church of America's roll in this.
    by making anger a sin the drug community easily were able to pedal a chemical solution to a very natural thing feelings.
    Jesus is the only life! once we turn away form Him we buy anything.

  17. Gravatar
    Starla Abbey

    In the past 10 months since we left the IC, being bitter (angry) is an emotion we are quite familiar with. As my mother so aptly put it.."Anger is what drives me to never go back!" Yep, I'm angry & bitter as hell, but not for me..not anymore..I'm angry for all those friends and family that turned their backs on us when we walked away, angry that they are still "allowing" themselves to be abused by the IC. I am too confident in where I am now to be swayed to ever look back, but to "be angry and sin not" has been a big part of my life in the past months..and I'm good with that!

  18. Gravatar
    Debbie

    Heather - thank you - you breathed words of courage in to me today.

    Virginia - I have been trying to tell people this same thing for so long.

    Darin - great article.

  19. Gravatar
    jenny

    I don't think the Bible talks about "anger" turning into "bitterness" anyway. That is a man made assumption about the passages concerning these words. I see Darin what you are saying that arguing about these words is missing the heart of your article. I would love to see you write an article about forgiveness. I believe I forgive those who hurt me but that does not mean I have to go back for another dose. I worry though that my forgiveness is thus inadequate.

  20. Gravatar
    Laurie Jackson

    Graham... I'm really asking myself if I'm floating down "Denial"... but I don't think I'm mad at people.. I feel like I'm mad that I've believed lies and invested so much energy in deception. I wish I knew how to have great relationships that are not based on manipulation or even getting my own needs met.. I don't know? can you forgive an object or a mindset? It seems like forgiveness can only be for actual people. Even the big lie, that I maybe wanted to believe... "that because I was in leadership I was doing well".. so maybe it's my own self I need to forgive for believing so many lies... maybe I liked the lies better for a time.?.. now I can say I don't want to live in lies... I want truth and life... really I do... and I really don't want to be angry.. I hate it here... really I do.

  21. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Laurie, I think you hit the nail on the head. Forgiveness applies to people. Anger at situations or at an institution is not the same as anger at a particular person. The Institution (and graham) tries to make you believe they're the same, but they are quite different.

  22. Gravatar
    Hagere

    Darin Thanks for the article. Is awesome.-:)

  23. Gravatar
    laurie

    so what is next.?.. feel anger.?. does it end? I think maybe some of the depression I deal with could be unresolved anger and or displaced anger... sheesh... I need so much counseling.. I think even the HOlY Spirit is tired of me.. :) but seriously, are you gonna do some pod casts on depression.?.I would love to hear what you guys..have to say.. :)

  24. Gravatar
    jenny

    Great point about forgiveness applying to people. And I guess it is easy to forgive particular people who have hurt us because they are agents of the institution because they, like us previously, have been duped, and we can get angry on their behalf too against the system that is in turn abusing them (if that complicated sentence makes sense to anyone!!!).

  25. Gravatar
    Laurie

    Oh boy can I relate to this subject. I emphatically told my pastor once, during our one and only counseling session, that I was ANGRY! after he told me I was cynical about the chances for my husband to find freedom from his 30 year porn addiction. His eyes widened but he ducked the opportunity to find out what I was so angry about. I could have given him an earful that day about how many years I'd been trying to be the submissive Biblical wife, the one the pastors preached about so much. Instead, he changed the subject. I then told him I feared for my physical safety. His response? He put on his best thundering-from-the-pulpit voice and told me I should honor my marriage vows. That was the day I stopped ignoring what my heart was trying to tell me about the IC. Thanks for this blog!

  26. Gravatar
    L J...

    Okay... just so no one is confused... I've mostly used Laurie Jackson.. and I was laurie up top saying so what's next... feel anger? now I'm sticking with L.J.... :) I don't mind what the other Laurie said.. but I just don't want my story be confused with hers... I'm the unresolved angry one... :) lol

  27. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Actually Laurie this weeks midweek podcast show is on depression. We recorded it last week but we're posting it tomorrow night for Wednesday morning. Good timing don't ya think?

  28. Gravatar
    Laurie P

    OH Laurie J, what are the odds that there were going to be two Laurie's with the same spelling posting comments here? I don't know about you, but our spelling isn't all that common where I live. I'll post as Laurie P in the future. Sorry for the confusion - I'm the Laurie above with the thunder-from-the-pulpit pastor. :)

  29. Gravatar
    L.J..

    Yup...I've done the suppressed memory stuff, spiritual cast out demons stuff, speaking only positive words stuff, food stuff, "Exercise" (that actually helps), even writing songs used to help, vitaman D... I've even studied post tramatic stress syndrome... because the symptoms are so similiar... and..... I"ve even taken your advice and truly "tried" to embrace it.. that seems to make it easier... I guess I just hate being sad and sometimes it almost feels scary.. and Darin now that you've confessed that you get depressed... I'm thinking the whole PMS and or Menapause is not the issue. unless you are really a women?... LOL.... I've struggled with this crap since I was like 8.of course a lot of bad happened that year.. so I'm back to the beginning.dealing with bad memories. U C the cycle?

  30. Gravatar
    L.J...

    yes, Laurie.P. I've always had to spell my name.. too funny.. you are so kind.. :)

  31. Gravatar
    Real

    I can understand how just pushing down or ignoring bondage in our lives can lead to bitternesss. So I think it's much healthier to just be real about what we are feeling. But I don't think it's the anger that sets us free it's the truth that sets us free. And by seeing the truth of what we have been through.. whether manipulation or spiritual abuse it can lead to anger.

    Being free is just that being free. Free to truly believe that we have been truly made new. That we don't have to pretend. Also, being free means that we are by no means obligated to allow ourselves to be put under the "laws" or "authority" of man. That we trust in the spirit and he is our life. Anyway, I'm totally getting off topic here.

  32. Gravatar
    brettact2

    LJ, I feel your pain. When I went through this I tried so hard to blame myself & went through it 3 different times with 3 different groups, trying to get it right! The trauma of having to no longer believe in this safe paradigm of man-based religion was intense. Check out my "Heavenly Deception" poem on the forum, the creative arts category to see my nightmare. I eventually found release from the struggle by handling it the way i learned to handle sin's bondage: calling evil evil, seeking the truth on the matter, & renouncing walking in the way of deception. While the anger phases allow us to search out the garbage we've swallowed, the search for God's realness let's us breathe in the healing. Just give yourself permission to walk thru the valley of the shadow of death at your own pace.

  33. Gravatar
    L.J.

    Real and Brettact 2 I love your words.. and Brettact... I will check that out... "Heavenly Deception"... :) is anyone on face book.?.. look me up.. russlaur91@gci.net thanks again for all your thoughts about this..

  34. Gravatar
    Barb

    Jesus was a man without sin, yet it says in Mark 3:5, "He looked around at them with anger grieved at their hardness of heart." And Psalm 7:11 says, "God is angry every day." And Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, "Be angry and sin not." Not all anger is bad. Some is good and right and necessary.
    I'm a little upset that you didn't re-address your last post:-)I still think you got the "who killed Jesus" wrong!!

  35. Gravatar
    TLC

    To LJ and others: It took six months of counseling to process my anger, grief and fear after leaving the IC. I found a counselor who was a Christian but not a Christian counselor because I could NOT stand the thought of one more person throwing Bible verses at me! I also found someone who had experience with cult/mind control issues. Depression is normal when people are telling you to suppress feelings and control you, so get the help you need. I am FREE thanks to her and this blog (great entry, Darin!) And yes, I was ANGRY. Please keep coming back and learning. You'll find freedom here!

  36. Gravatar
    Tessie

    Funny this appeared today because Steve McVey's blog was called "Freedom Fighters" and he said he was done being "nice" to legalists - been there done that and no more. Here is an extract:

    "Don't tell me I sound unloving. That used to work on me, but I'm past that now. I've seen too many massacred saints loved by Jesus and yet martyred by legalism. My love for them trumps my admitted displeasure at being criticized and misunderstood. So you can keep it to yourself. We grace revolutionaries are done with trying to play nice with the Pharisees. Lives are in the balance and we don't have time or interest in those silly games anymore."

    Both you guys have ministered to me today because I have such a fear of being too critical too. You are awesome - thanks!

  37. Gravatar
    Silas

    Excellent post and most relevant for today's modern church!

  38. Gravatar
    Mike

    I am a public school teacher and I told my principal the other day after being told that I had been a little negative lately, that the school had become a lot like the Church in that we don't allow anyone to say anything negative. We are touted as not being a team player or having a negative attitude. Its like the Emperor's New Clothes. I have been angry but its made me more cynical than anything. I need to get past questioning everything I'm told in church.

  39. Gravatar
    Joyce Collins-Baker

    I believe that anger turned inward can become bitterness...and if that anger/bitterness gets no "air" it can become resentment. I have found that when any of these things; anger, bitterness, resentment have no voice they can become depression.

  40. Gravatar
    lizbeth

    Wow alot of great things being shared.. I remember what I went through before I walked out and yes, I was angry, angry at the lies and the apathetic folks who just ate the crap. Never questioning, just eating it. No one brave enough, including me, to talk about the pink elephant in the middle of the room.. trying to connect with someone who would listen. Once I shared my burdened heart with a sister and her answer was you just gotta believe.. I told her "I do believe in a God of Love" but I cannot believe in lies.. that's when I realized people go through a process that I am convinced is from God. They get to a place where they start to question, wonder, know that there is more and things are not as they seem and it feels fake.. that is the crossroads to Path A or B. Path A "Acceptance"...

  41. Gravatar
    lizbeth

    get on with it. Jump on the band wagon and keep your mouth shut... don't question. Just believe and squash all those ideas and feelings.. that junk must be from the devil anyway.. Or Path B "Beginnings" trust your heart (the IC will say who can trust the heart it is evil, yet, we have invited Christ in us... the hope of Glory, who we surrender to as Lord to reign as King in our heart, mind, person) ask questions, seek God, break away, find the truth. Jesus said you need no man to teach you.. I have sent you the Great Counselor, the Holy Spirit... we choose which path "life" or "death" I chose life and today God has given me peace in knowing who I am and I am okay. He has given us a mind to reason with, a heart to feel with and his Spirit to lead us. We should not be afraid to be human.

  42. Gravatar
    lizbeth

    Great post Darin. Thanks for the site and blogs that give us the opportunity to share.. it's nice to see so many on the journey for truth. I don't feel so all alone. May the Love and Peace of Jeusus be with us all.

  43. Gravatar
    JennyL

    I'm another jenny, too, so shall call mself JennyL.

    Great article, Darin, and many great comments. My leaders talk about being critical all the time, and it's served to shut everyone up when they have a problem or grievance. There's no listening to anyone, it's just the accustaion of being critical towards your leaders! They talk about us being teachable, yet in this action they themselves are not being teachable.
    Then if you do express your problem you're told you're bitter.. and so on.
    So we live in a place where no-one talks, no-one listens, in case you're labeled a rebel.
    Sad, abusive and unnecessary.. and so grievous to God. I'm staying because I do listen and talk, and because the Father clearly said I must). I have nothing to lose at this point in my life.

  44. Gravatar
    L.J..

    Graham... I'm not mad at you... I do have a question... have you ever been mad, angry or bitter.?.. and if so, can you tell me your testimony how you were healed from this brother?

  45. Gravatar
    L.J.

    I don't want to leave this blog without bringing this up.. after reading every ones thoughts... there is this element of control that broods in religious garb...I mostly left church because some close friends of ours started making me feel uncomfortable around my 9 yr old son.. (you must read between the lines) and there is this undertone I've learned in life.. that you can't offend anyone or say you don't trust a person.. I'm realizing after almost a year.. I have the right to have boundries and feel unsafe around anyone that makes me sick to my stomach. I honestly have no hate for this person.. but I've had sooooo much guilt about pulling away from them because it seems so "unchristian".to tell another person that you don't trust their motives.why the hell do I feel guilty for this?

  46. Gravatar
    Laurie P

    LJ, I once had a problem in a IC situation where I was being manipulated and pressured to do something by a Christian couple we were friends with, that my gut was just screaming at me not to do. Even my husband gave me a hard time over it. Later, I was totally vindicated but at the time it was going on...well, people were scandalized, angry, and pressured me to just go with the flow and not upset the person I didn't trust, who was particularly outraged with me for taking bold action to verify what she told me. And you know that not one person later admitted that they had misjudged me or apologized for their mistreatment of me. Yet, I still felt guilty for not being the picture of the 'nice' Christian that I thought I was supposed to be.

  47. Gravatar
    L.J.

    Laurie P. how long ago was this? I really hate the guilt..even when you say it about you... I get so mad that we think we should feel this way... I'm sure there is similiar dysfunctional experiences you and I and people with this guilt issue have had.. Not feeling like our "feelings" of distrust are valid...? ughhhh.. Lord make it stop!...I know He is working in us Laurie P. and all the other people.. maybe it's a victim mentality that we have to shed. Myabe we have to choose it and say.. I'm allowed to not trust a person... I am allowed to feel unsafe and unsure about someones motives... this is where I hit the wall.. but at least I'm saying it in my head... :) thanks for sharing Laurie P. this is so timely for me..

  48. Gravatar
    SGB

    If my anger at the abuses I see in the hierarchical religious system that we North Americans call "church" is sin, then so is Jesus' anger when he turned over the tables in front of the Temple. Obviously he did not sin when he confronted the abuses of his day. Jesus is always our guide. If anger is not sin for him, then it is not for us. "In your anger, sin not" the good book says. If I had ever been as outspoken as him, I would have been crucified even sooner than I was!

  49. Gravatar
    Robert Ramos

    If I am rapped by someone, and rapped again, and then again, do I find it in myself to forgive this person? Possibly, but it doesn't mean I ever have to like this person coinside with this person, talk to them or even be around this person when I forgive them. Yet if it takes years for me to come to grips with the fact that I was robbed of my dignity, and my heart was ripped out and I have nothing to live for, yet I speak the words of forgiveness, is the process complete? Until I never have ill-will toward this perpetrator is forgiveness complete? Trite definitions of Christianity fail to reach our spirit. Anger is real, and I have yet to truly understand to sin not in your anger, IC prevents the attempt to feel. Trite answers ie Graham do not reach the spirit. Love does.

  50. Gravatar
    Heidi Venie

    This shout goes out to Graham and all the other ic forum trolls roaming around the site. When I first started breaking free from religion I had a hard time digesting a lot of this stuff because it was so contrary to what we are taught in mainstream Christianity. It wasn't until I allowed myself to go to the heart of the issues that it all began to make sense. You have got to stop looking at this stuff through religious eyes and start seeing it from your heart, and if you cannot do that then you should patrol another forum somewhere else. Sorry if that is too direct, but I simply just don't do the cutesy church responses anymore. If I wanted to hear any more stupid religious illogic, I'd go visit my local church! By the way, Jesus loves you! :)

  51. Gravatar
    NotFedUpWithChurch

    I find this article basically condescending and insulting to human beings...as if they can't be angry w/o being bitter. I give my fellow humans a little more credit than that.

    Secondly, I'd like to know exactly what dictionaries the author was referencing with regards to the definition of bitter. Because I read both my American Heritage Collegiate Dictionary and the word "anger" wasn't even used in any of the SIX defintions it had for bitter. Nor was "anger" used in any of the THREE definitions used for bitter in my Merriam-Webster dictionary.

    Also the mud-slinging is going both ways here I see. Graham happens to disagree and suddently Heidi calls him an internet troll. Way to go on the tolerance there, Heidi! I'm sure I'll be lumped into the same group. Fine, I can live with that.

  52. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I used the dictionary on my Mac. Also, Google dictionary uses the word anger in the first 2 definitions. Someone sounds really bitter here. It's sad that once again, YOU missed the point of the entire article. You are the blind person disputing the difference between bitterness and anger just like I wrote about. Thanks so much for presenting yourself as another colorful illustration as to what I'm talking about. Thanks also for the irony in your bitter tone throughout your post.

  53. Gravatar
    jill p

    hummmm. This sounds like Moriah. Did you check the IP address Darin? You should.

  54. Gravatar
    Starla Abbey

    @ Heidi-I completely agree with you on this one. When Darin's writings were first presented to me I couldn't read them without first placing my religious traditions in front of everything I read..(as I also did when I read scripture) He wrote in a way that challenged everything I thought I knew, and turned me off in many ways! But oddly enough I kept coming back because even though my thinking was being challenged my heart was being drawn. It came down to a heart issue, and once my heart was addressed my spirit man started to REALLY commune with His spirit. I realized that unless someone is ready for the revelation of Him, they will never understand those of us that do. I know, because that was once me. Unless we stop looking through the eyes of religion we won't really see Him as He is.

  55. Gravatar
    L.J.

    love your words Robert... "Trite definitions of Christianity fail to reach our spirit." and Heidi: "I simply just don't do the cutesy church responses anymore." and Starla... it's so true it's a heart thing.. and that is why I'm adopting the "Follow Your Heart" philosophy... this way we can't be controlled by another person or set of rules... Religion= power and control and Jesus loves us opposite of this mindset. I wish I knew this years ago....

  56. Gravatar
    David Backus

    I find it interesting that just about every pastor will jump on the bandwagon with Jesus when he speaks harsh words against Pharisees and religious leaders. I guess they think that Jesus CAN'T be talking about THEM. So I wonder. If Jesus were here in physical form today and he spoke against these pastors or the IC establishment if they would just call Him bitter! Probably.

  57. Gravatar
    Vera

    This is so true and applies to so many aspects of institutional church. Hey, what about the 'rebellious' epithet and one I often got: ' she's hearing from the devil'. (this was usually when I spoke up and said I felt members of the congregation were being abused etc.) To be remotely critical of the workings of the institution made one 'rebellious'.

  58. Gravatar
    Aida

    This has been a great conversation and very freeing! Bullying is a major problem in the church and it seems to also be very common with online groups. Because of my temperament as a protector, it’s very difficult for me to watch someone being bullied and not get angry. I have improved. At one time, even thinking about a particular person who tends to bully, I could feel a knot in my stomach but fortunately I’m passed that now. However, seeing him bullying people still makes me angry.

  59. Gravatar
    Aida

    I just don’t trust him and I don’t want to have anything to do with him. This is a really sticky situation but the comments about setting boundaries has really been helpful. It helps to know that it’s okay to be angry and to separate myself from him. I sometimes wish I wasn’t wired this way but I just can’t accept someone who abuses and bullies without remorse.

  60. Gravatar
    L.J.

    Graham,thank you so much for sharing your heart. Ittakes vulnerability toadmit such stuff.I struggled with alcohol when I was younger and anger was taken out on my innocent kids as a young mother as I would yell. I kept going to God and Grace was the only thing that helped me. Having a real conversation that usually led into some counsel from the Holy Spirit.He always dealt with the root of the Anger and it never helped to have a scripture thrown in my face.the Holy Spirit would talk with me about "Why" I was so angry and felt out of control often when my kids were acting up.It seems like youmust have had more then just a"scripture" to me you sound like you've been touched by the Spirit ofGod.This is what everyone here is really saying.God leads in somany ways includg scrptur lv ur heart G

  61. Gravatar
    L.J.

    well, I never said God had me relive the past. forgiving is a supernatural thing that I believe only the Holy Spirit can help us do. Graham. I don't know the journey you are on but I'm sure you keep coming back to this blog for some reason. Emotions are not a sin.. they are just emotions and forgiving is not an emotion it's a miracle. I'm so glad you've had one. sounds like you don't need to hash anything out at all .. sounds like you are just fine. Glad it's all working out for you. Thanks for being so transparent about your past. :)

  62. Gravatar
    L.J.

    okay. got it.

  63. Gravatar
    Debbie

    I think the point Darin was trying to make is that before forgiveness a person must get in touch with how they are harboring anger and bitterness etc...yet in the IC if you try to express how you are feeling most often than not you are cut off and told you are sinning for feeling that way. To be told that you are in error for not forgiving after all Jesus has done for you prevents a true healing and only adds more weight to a heart already weighed down - it is the yeast of the Pharisee's to weigh down and not lift a finger to help. The verse Graham used can be a sword or a salve depending on the spirit it is used with - condemnation or compassion. I was very angry at God when I first believed because I thought even He wasn't interested in my pain, most of his 'kids' gave me that impression

  64. Gravatar
    BMC

    I'm so damn bitter right now, that word doesn't even begin to describe it. I'm angry, feel betrayed/controlled/abandoned/manipulated, etc. I've always been able to be the lone voice of dissent, but boy have I realized lately that PEOPLE HATE TRUTH TELLERS. I know I'm on the right track though, because even though I feel alone, lonely, scared and unsupported, I'm NOT backing down. Whatever Christ has been doing in me to change me cannot be undone. The taste of freedom can never be un-tasted.

  65. Gravatar
    L.J.

    BMC.. I love your quote.. "The taste of freedom can never be un-tasted"... how true... can you share what happened or what's happening in you life? I understand if you can't here..

  66. Gravatar
    BMC

    Things have been shifting for me for about 9 mo, after reading Darin's stuff/other Windblown Media books. What I found is that they reflected what I already believed. Then, I read Luther's definition of Grace, and something started to shift in me. I remember standing in my kitchen in Oct asking God what this "feeling" was, and out of nowhere the phrase "born again" came to me. I think I lost my breath and teared up. Since then, I've had one eye opener after another. And when I've confronted my orthodox IC friends on issues they know are wrong but are ignoring, BOY have I gotten resistance! People would rather live in the comfort of lies than the scary newness of truth. All I know is that whatever has happened has radically changed me, and never asked me for permission...thank God.

  67. Gravatar
    Laurie P

    Debbie, I couldn't agree more. There's a cliche that the church shoots its wounded and I've been there plenty. People put on these fake masks and pretend that everything is okay because expressing real pain and real need isn't too welcome. I just finished Darin's book but I'm going to read it again because what he's saying seems to wonderfully simple to be true (even though some parts touched my heart deeply, it's overwhelming me right now so I have to digest it in little bitty bites).

  68. Gravatar
    Laurie P

    LJ, this happened about 5 years ago. At the time, we were attending an independent Baptist megachurch. It was very big, very busy, and very dysfunctional. I was making myself crazy trying to be the perfect Biblical wife, hoping my husband would step up into his perfect role, too. We moved across town 3 years ago, and I insisted that we change churches, and I found a little bitty country church that I felt was a better fit for us, back then, but you know what?. It was just a different set of things that raised red flags for me. As for the guilt, I know some of mine comes from my fears and my long inability to set firm boundaries. My mother used to always say I was rebellious if I questioned anything, and I guess I've just been seeking get people approval since then. Not so much now :)

  69. Gravatar
    L.J.

    Thanks so much for sharing BMC... around march 3rd 2002 God was doing amazing things in my life..and I told a friend that I think I just got saved.. even though I had been in church for years. God is doing cool stuff in us. again thanks for sharing.
    Laurie P. I relate completely. It's doing somehting deep in my heart as I connect even with blogs like this and face book. I'm seeing this amazing work God is doing in so many. I wonder whats next... He is exciting..... Loving the journey with all of you. :)

  70. Gravatar
    David

    Graham, I don't think Darin is encouraging people to live in the past here. Living in the past is harmful sure, but so is ignoring it. if you ignore past wounds you are doomed to get hurt again. Honoring the wound doesn't mean living in the past. It means being aware of that wound, and also the same wound in others. Many great men do many great things out of their wounds from the past. Suggest reading my blog (on the free beleiver's section) entitled Battle Wounds. There is something to be said for people who understand their wound and can use it. Darin is the best example I can think of when it comes to treating the wound with proper respect and using it wisely to help others. A healthy anger and a healthy bitterness gets much accomplished. Look at some of the greatest men in the Bible.

  71. Gravatar
    Faith

    I love the article! I love the conversation! One of my pet peeves is when a preacher will make fun of some imaginary church member who supposedly has a "bad attitude" and has dared to "criticize" his sermon. This preacher will screw up his voice to imitate the "sour-puss". I always wondered about that person - what kind of hurts they've had for years that the pastor never listened to...Maybe the hurts came out in criticism but shame on that preacher for not having the compassion to look deeper. On the other hand, I'm sure it's not fun dealing with toxic people in a congregation. If we were encouraged to have a voice maybe emotions and relationships would be healthier. I don't like to see the conversation shut down for anyone, even if I disagree.

  72. Gravatar
    Faith

    One last little bit...I don't however believe for a moment that we have to tolerate mean-spirited and excessively rigid people in our lives for the sake of being fair and open to conversation about difficult topics. Back to the preacher making fun of the "sour-puss". His story was a very effective way to keep me from ever going to him after a service to discuss something I had difficulty with! What was to stop him from making fun of me (even if my name was never mentioned) in his next sermon! Some of these preachers travel long distances just so they can tell these supposedly humourous stories. For some reason, I always felt sorry for the "sour-puss"!

  73. Gravatar
    out of the fog

    I see this long discussion and I wonder if anyone else sees what I see. The whole problem once again, is any attempted institutional control over emotions/actions. If I am angry and it takes me a while to "deal" with it, does that mean I have become bitter. Not necessarily. And who can even advise me on that except someone who has walked with me through the situations and feelings to begin with. Again, institutions place labels on people to control them as a substitute for establishing or maintaining any real relationship.
    So while it is fine to put your own issues, etc on any forum like this and you do get helpful feedback sometimes but be careful. When it comes to the negative responses, that party may not know you well enough to make such assessments.

  74. Gravatar
    lionwoman

    I want to encourage people to come on over to the forum to discuss this further, if you want. It only takes a minute to become a member. Go to the "Into the Wild" podcast section, and you can pull up the blog discussion as well. There is obviously a lot going on with this topic. As I said previously, I think bitterness has become epidemic among Christians who have been denied valid anger, lied to, manipulated, abused, and often dumped out on their rear ends. Bitterness should not be treated as something to be ashamed of, but as an infected wound. Wound treatment needs to be handled gently and wisely.

  75. Gravatar
    Heather Sterling

    Yes, what lionwoman said!!!! Do it!!!!

  76. Gravatar
    David D. Flowers

    Darin:
    I will admit that I was furious when I first discovered the truth about institutional Christianity and how far removed it is from the organic church in the New Testament. However, the Lord healed my heart and that "bitterness" was transformed into His relentless love. I agree that we will initially feel anger toward the "spiritual abuse" going on within organized religion. But folks should not remain there. The Lord ought to be allowed to work His heart into us so that we might find the balance in Christ. Honestly, I worry that this network is becoming a collection of individuals that aren't really knowing what it means to be "free" in Christ. I ask you and your readers to be cautious of camping out in one stage of growth and not encouraging believers to move forward in Jesus.

  77. Gravatar
    Pamela

    I get angry everytime I see a brother go back in to the bondage of Religion because I know what it is. It still hurts when those you once had fellowship considers you as rotten fruit. My husband and I pastored in a fellowship where everyone was a carbon copy and desired ministry above all else. I was depressed the whole first 10 years of my life with Christ and still managed to maintain the thought that I was free. Finally I had enough abuse. We told our pastor we were moving out of town and wanted to say goodbye to the flock with love. Of course he preached a surmon on Samson and who else, Me...he then told the church we were leaving and come say goodbye to my husband. I stood there alone all the women afraid to even look at me. Thank God He is a very present help.

  78. Gravatar
    Stephanie McEntire

    When I left I wasn't just mad at "church" I was mad at people, myself and God. So mad that for a while I wanted nothing to do with anything "religious" or anybody that took that stance. Sometimes I think in my mind of it like a Baptism with water. Not necessarily the "dunking" kind but the cleansing kind. The beginning of the change of heart. Even Jesus had his baptism right along with the rest of us. He was a Nazarene you know. Even Jesus had to "lay it down in the water." It's been many years now and I look back and see it's necessity. One of the most freeing things I have learned over the years is see the "man" Jesus and the human gamut of emotions he wasn't afraid to use and all situations did not call for the same emotion. To be angry all the time of course is not good.

  79. Gravatar
    Stephanie McEntire

    To be any one emotion applied to anything for a long period of time is unhealthy however just as unhealthy would be to say you can't feel anything at all. If we have been brainwashed it is to look at "feeling" anything as bad or "flesh." Jesus had no problem at all shaking a finger at times or picking up a child to make a point. After all the dust settled after my exodus I was able to see that about this man I was following. This man whose Father poked his head out of the sky to say "this is my beloved in whom I am well pleased" and whose "son" (Jesus)said to his Father.."why have you forsaken me?" Isn't that just like life to feel? Our brainwashing has imprisoned us to think about something that should be as natural as the left hand and right hand working together. It is what it is.

  80. Gravatar
    Vincenzo

    Fear is an effective tactic because it preys upon our need to be accepted, our insecurities, etc. I remember one of the most blatant forms of control was at my church one year when a famous minister came to speak. You all would know him as he's a member of the NAR and has a great deal of influence in charismatic circles. He warned us of the dangers of not submitting to leadership and used Korah's rebellion against Moses as an example. Pretty sad really. Teachings like this don't produce strong mature Christian men and women, but defeated eunuchs with no mind or voice of their own.

  81. Gravatar
    Vickey Close

    This is amazingly wonderful and freeing!!!!!!! You have so touched on the heart of how I was controlled for so many years and afraid to question,,, I have always been terrified of being angry and bitter, i have even recently while going through a divorce prayed "Lord please keep your hand on my heart do not let me be bitter"... But anger motivated me to get out of a 4 year marriage that was killing me............. If i had not gotten angry I would still be there sick, paralyzed, toxic, helpless and would stay that way because of fear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I come from a long line of obedience, submission and honoring authority at all and any costs to question authority was to question God how scary is that!!!!!!!!!! Thank you Darin you have been my voice so many times!!!! God bless you,,,,,

  82. Gravatar
    Aida

    David, I really don’t think there’s any need to worry. Everyone here is at a different place. Most people have moved past the unhealthy anger, however, some are still new to this particular aspect of their journey and haven’t gotten past the anger yet. They need to know that this stage is okay because they’ve been told for so long that it’s not. In time they’ll get past the hurt but they need to be given the time to do that without feeling guilty. Anger, however, is not wrong and can result in some very positive things if channeled in the right direction. Angry men and women have been the ones who have fought the injustices of this world because anger is often a visible manifestation of love action.

  83. Gravatar
    Linda

    I could never figure out what was wrong with my church experience...until I stopped going. Church became very dry and for me, and just a ridiculous waste of time. As I have read and listened to podcasts from this site, I have seen deeper into my own heart. I have been angry, but more at the wasted time...years of feeling guilty, years of feeling useless etc. I haven't been in places where others have who have posted so I can't relate to that type of pain. I have had the same teaching however, on the whole anger/bitterness, and felt the guilt of being 'unChristlike' ...the trick now, is to quit saying the same dumb things to my children...so they won't be in that type of bondage. Tricky when husband still attends IC, though thankfully not weekly.

  84. Gravatar
    Baby Be Free

    ThankYou Darin!You are a true spiritual warrior. Great comments also! Very empowering. To some of you, I would like to ask "Have you ever heard of the NEW Covenant?" The one where law is REPLACED with love? The one that says your NEW Heart is good,pure and genuinely desires His will. If we are living in this perfect love and allowing God to express it through us, then the "problems" of anger/bitterness,guilt,shame, depression,and forgiveness are dissolved. Im not saying we wont experience these things, but that we will be able to respond from a new perspective. God's perspective. As Christian's we are not bound to the God's law, we are bound to God's Love. It is not about what we DO, but who we ARE.

  85. Gravatar
    Baby Be Free

    We don't need to "fix" each other or get everyone to agree. We need to trust God to do the work in each of us. If someone is able to learn, grow or find peace in another's words, then that is what God intends for us to do- support each other in love. The rest is up to Him and not one of us in a position to judge or dictate where another person should be in their PERSONAL relationship with God. Boundaries, people. If someone is set on a track to live out their life in bondage- I want to help set them free and I do offer my love and support, but I know it is ultimately in God's Hands. And I trust God to take care of that life with the same Love and Dignity and Grace that he shares with me.
    "Faith is not belief without proof, but Trust without reservation"
    Where are you placing your Trust?

  86. Gravatar
    Baby Be Free

    I also want to say that my heart is overwhelmed at the diligent quest for truth expressed here. Take comfort in knowing that for us, the truth is love. Each of our journeys is so meaningful and transforming. I love you all. B

  87. Gravatar
    Ian

    When I stopped attending a formal gathering I was basically confused and it was only later that I became angry. Not so much angry at others but dreadfully angry at myself for being being duped for so very long. Since the it has been a process of evaluating and reframing opinions and core values. I'm not so much enamored with with the word bitter and so prefer critical thinking. The ability to take a position based on quality information. Also, I think it quite clear from everyone's comments that we are continually engaged in moving from one place to another. I find it amazing listening to everyone's stories that they are all on the road to freedom ... same destination but at different places in the journey.

  88. Gravatar
    Mike W

    Excellent article. Only the devil is clever enough to weave the language this precise to ensnare God's sheep. These pigs behind pulpits are Satan's men untill proven otherwise. Those in these forums who straddle the fraud church and freedom are kidding themselves and are deceived.

  89. Gravatar
    lionwoman

    Wow Mike, that's a pretty strong statement there. The whole free believer idea is not based on the idea that all people behind the pulpit are evil or that all people in the building are deceived (and all people outside are not). It's just not true. We all have blind spots. Just because we may see some things others don't, doesn't necessarily make us overall spiritually more mature. It's not about us vs. them. Some free believers are in the building trying to reach others in need, and I think that's good.

  90. Gravatar
    DebbieS

    The key to getting past all of this, is having "Christ in you" as a reality in your life. Die to yourself and let Christ live through you. About a year ago God revealed His Son in me. Talk about freeing. I don't get depressed anymore. I really don't even focus on me at all, just on Him. It's given me a whole different perspective, on myself, on others, even on God. It has been amazing. I read "The School of Christ" by T. Austin-Sparks. He died about 30 years ago, but was totally inspired. You can look him up online and read all of his stuff there. By the way I read this book after the Lord started revealing things to me and the things I read in there just confirmed what the Lord was telling me. All of this after being a Christian for about 40 years.

  91. Gravatar
    DebbieS

    I don't know why it took so long, but I'm glad I'm home. Christ in you, the hope of glory!

  92. Gravatar
    Brian

    Why is there so much painting with a broad brush?

  93. Gravatar
    Debbie

    I'd tell you Brian but then I'd have to kill you - lol! - Just kidding, your words brought out my humor. My other thought was that we in kindergarten like big brushes :)

  94. Gravatar
    J K

    We have should be angry when we see people taken advantage of or injustice otherwise being done. I think that is part of the character of God, as an outgrowth of love. If I love someone, how can I not be angry when they are hurt unnecessarily. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a time later forgive. As Darin points out though, much of church teaching has turned the teaching of forgiveness into telling people never to get angry, or it has “given” us the right to judge how long someone should remain angry. That is never our place though. The greater the hurt, the longer that anger is likely to last. The more ongoing the hurt, so also is the anger likely to last. When we see people continuing to be held in bondage to legalism and fear, we should be angry on their behalf because we love them.

  95. Gravatar
    David Joseph

    THE BOTTOM LINE OF IT ALL IS TO FALL HEAD OVER HEALS IN LOVE WITH LOVE JESUS LOVE GOD LOVE LOVE AND LOVE PEOPLE LOVEDREAM!

  96. Gravatar
    Mike W

    Here's a broad brush, those who are of the Spirit of Christ seek the bottom. The Spirit of this world seeks the top and to rule over those on the bottom.

  97. Gravatar
    Brenna

    Wow. I was "taught" I wasn't allowed to be angry as a good Christian. Wow.

  98. Gravatar
    Debbie

    Mike W - would that also mean that those on the bottom filled with the Spirit of Christ are not that disturbed by those on the top who try to rule over them?

  99. Gravatar
    Free2beHis

    Wow...

    can I identify with this entry. I have found it amazing that as I have talked with people on different forums that the first card that is played by those protecting the religious status quo is just that:"You're just bitter." No, you're just scared.

    Freedom is something talked about often from pupits all over the world, but something very very few really experience. Freedom is a threat to the status quo of religion because when people get free, they are no longer the financial battery that drives the place. They are no longer compelled towards an outward appearance of conformity. They are no longer manipulated. So in preservation mode, what else can religous people do but brand those who are angry at what they suffered and throw them into the Boat named: S.S. Bitterness...

  100. Gravatar
    Liberty Benedict

    Very well written and very true. Another word organized trade marked churches like to throw in our faces to shut us up is "pride". When we ask questions and becomes adamant that our understanding is correct and the teachings of the church is error we are told that pride is getting in the way of our salvation. In fact our whole attitude is summed up in that word "pride". And so we button our lips because nobody wants to be guilty of one of the seven deadly sins.

  101. Gravatar
    Jim Kaiser

    The 'Fundamentalist' of the shop was beating two Catholics up with "God is going to get you" this week where I work. Still new to this, I jumped in to the conversation. After, the 'Fundamentalist' came to me and accused me of being angry from the past. I instantly felt written off! Then I got the big warning I had better watch out what I was listening to! Well, for the first time in my life, I am watching out what I am listening to- my heart! You sure hit the bullseye here Darin!

  102. Gravatar
    Moriah

    jill p. -- no, that was not Moriah, and I would really appreciate it if people would not gossip about me around here or try to make out every naysaying post that comes across Darin's blog out to be me. For the record: this is my IP address -- it should resolve to northern Virginia (I live 20 miles west of Washington DC if anyone wants to "check" on me). This is my email address attached to my IP address. And despite having had differences with Darin, I don't make it a habit to lash out at him on his blog. Also if you are interested, I got set free December 28, 2009 and my only interest in life is serving my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. If I did disagree with anything Darin wrote here in his space I would take it to my Master first and if responding do so with respect. God bless.

  103. Gravatar
    Moriah

    As for the comment I intended to make on here (before I saw that scrolling down), I was just going to say spot on and well done. I have both been a victim of this and similar "blanket invalidations" at times past and witnessed others being treated that way as well, and this article does an excellent job of exposing the dynamics behind this particular flavor of "witch hunt". Although it's not just an "IC versus non-IC" problem ... it can be a problem with individuals passing judgments as well.

  104. Gravatar
    Jayne J

    Love your article Darin; After being a non-believer for 40 years, I encountered God's love and forgiveness for the first time a year last September after doing something very wrong. What hit me then was the realisation that God loved and forgave me no less than someone who had believed in him, loved him, understood him and honoured him for longer than I had (prodigal son). God loves us equally regardless of our level of understanding or spiritual maturity (including CI leaders etc) and Darin's book The Misunderstood God confirms this. I have no idea if anyone at the fellowship I attend has read Darin's book (aside me), but whether they have or not and whether they get it or not doesn't alter the love I have for them. They'll get there when they get there. Love is patient, isn't it?

  105. Gravatar
    Jayne J

    There has been lots of generalising here about institutions and how they are failing us. I feel truly blessed because a week ago at a fellowship meeting one of our 'leaders' (we have 3, all unpaid) spoke on the adulteress brought to Jesus by the Pharisees for his opinion on whether or not she should be stoned for her sin. After speaking the leader held a Q & A session for members to participate. One member asked why Jesus sat on the ground, the leader asked for suggestions from other members and a member (& a Christian counsellor) answered that perhaps Jesus just came alongside the woman (the 'sinner') in her distress. Here are two demonstrations of real love inside and outside 'the building'.

  106. Gravatar
    Aida

    Moriah, I’m happy for you. May you continue to grow in the grace and love for our heavenly Father that you have so often expressed.

  107. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I second that Aida. My heart leaped when I read your post Moriah.

  108. Gravatar
    exdroid

    Great article Darin!
    Hi from Australia by the way. I bought your book - The Misunderstood God a few weeks ago and loved it! Will reread it over and over i'm sure. Found out about it after hearing your interview with Wayne Jacobsen...It's very popular at my local bookstore and even my counsellor has bought a few copies!

  109. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    That's really exciting exdroid. Thanks for telling me.

  110. Gravatar
    Brenda Gregory

    Oh my goodness! I cannot count the times that the 'B' word was used as a manipulation tool against me! It is amazing at how sly and cunning the powers that be were at using their 'word' weapons to keep their followers 'shut up' and loyal to a fault! NO MORE NO MORE NO MORE!~

  111. Gravatar
    Cathy

    It seems really interesting that critical has been turned into a dirty word. Criticism is meant to be something to evaluate ourselves with. It is a means of helping us to recognize our faults and improve in all areas of our lives. Amazing how words take on a new meaning.

  112. Gravatar
    Heatheraglow

    It seems like in Christian circles that you are in sin unless you have that Plastic-Placid-Happy-Face-Of-Contentment all the time. When I first gave my heart to Jesus, I devoured the Psalms & related to much to David and the cries of his heart.
    Why have we divorced ourselves from our feelings?
    It seems that the "faith" has turned to intellectualism and abandoned the heart.
    It's almost as if the institution has suffered a stroke and now parts of the heart are without blood and is lifeless.
    I am in the middle of reading -Sacred Romance- and this book is talking about living from your heart. IT is really speaking to me.
    Darin, I appreciate your honesty in this post. Honest discussions bring truth forward.
    Thanks!

  113. Gravatar
    Darin Olson

    I think it is interesting that the IC wants it's followers to not address lots of things. Lust, bitterness, etc. We are told that we need to pray about it, stand on the word, etc. We are conditioned to not deal with it. We swallow so much and are taught that "getting it out" is gossiping, etc. Anger, to me, is not a learned response, it is natural and deny your feelings is just that, denial. Sadly, instead of letting someone own those feelings and help them deal with it and move on, we are taught and tell others to swallow or deny them which just prolongs the anger. Just my thoughts.

  114. Gravatar
    MotherHen

    Wow, this is exactly what happened to me. I had a situation at Bob Jones University while I was on staff that needed to be dealt with. On my INITIAL visit to their so-called biblical counselor (I threw up a little in my mouth when I typed "biblical"), he informed me that I was "bitter." Wrongs needed to be righted, wounds needed to heal, and restitution needed to be made. Yet this "bitter" card was played to beat me into subjection and make the situation "go away" "biblically" and cause the situation to NEVER be resolved. I since understand that they use the same "bitter" verse for ALL situations thereby thwarting the normal process of justice. I still hurt, and I will always hurt not so much at the situation they refused to address, but for my treatment after the fact. I needed hope and help and yet I got beat up with the "bitterness" club.

  115. Gravatar
    Matt

    A breath of fresh air!!!

  116. Gravatar
    Rob

    Right on! Reading that was refreshing!

  117. Gravatar
    schely

    my sister told me about this site last night as we talked about our being "christian". we used to go in two different churches. as we go along our conversation, we end up comparing our experiences, words we came to adapt to our daily "christian life" & so forth. i've been out of the church for almost 7 years & she on the other hand, for about 4 months. this article brought me back to questioning myself again, am i really resolved?, are they still talking about me?, the what if's. had i just been to defensive, critical, bitter? i know that i've hurt them but most of all God. i was just really so thankful to my sister. i hope that this would be a good start for me to putting God to my life again. move on, get a life. freedom.

  118. Gravatar
    Katrina Watson

    You nailed it! This is exactly the struggle my husband and I went through as we started our journey. We were angry about the deception and guilt ridden about our anger. LOL!

  119. Gravatar
    Michelle

    I like what you had to say and I think I get it but what about when you truly are bitter... then why drag that around? Ongoing bitterness effects your health and life in an bad way. I have seen it happen more then once.
    Just saying............. maybe it would be better to walk through it with Father?
    When I was in the club I was told I was depressed when something upset me and was encouraged to go on depression meds. Funny, since I left the club I have never felt better. But... maybe I am just bitter????

  120. Gravatar
    Sally

    I just listened to a podcast on The God Journey with Darin as a guest. I had found him somehow about 3 years ago. I too thought maybe you were an emergent member. I really was excited listening to you. I struggle with bitterness right now.
    I hear all these stories and wonder why people left the IC. Here's my story. We belonged to our church for 27 years. We were part of leadership. 3 years ago, we decided we wanted to travel. To do that, we needed to sell our house. So we had the kids come get whatever they wanted, sold all the rest. The house sold before being listed and as we had prayed over 2 years about this, we believe this was God. Anyway, we bought a motorhome and car and paid cash for them. Two weeks later I found out I had cancer. So we lived in the motorhome while doing chemo. Had a great going away party. Then we hit the road doing volunteer work. A year and a half later we came back because my cancer returned. I need to state that while I underwent chemo, I didn't have one

  121. Gravatar
    C Wells

    I Just can't say enough "amen"s to this article. Really. Could it be MORE true? I don't think so.

    Thank you so much for expressing what I have felt for so long. I'm tired of people emailing me and talking to me about bitterness and forgiveness any time that I try to speak out against abusiveness in the church, problems with Christianity, etc.

    I think you are 100% correct. This term is more about controlling people and not feeling uncomfortable than about anything the Bible says or means.

  122. Gravatar
    Janice Taylor

    I can't believe how free I am starting to feel after reading Darin's book The Misunderstood God, I am heartily recommending it to all the christians I know who are struggling with these same issues, my own anger at being emotionally constipated and feeling tremendous guilt over feeling angry and critical about the Church has been with me some thirty years and I too was very afraid of becoming bitter but thank God for Darin's book which showed me the truth I had always known in my heart, our fight is indeed not with flesh and blood and Satan's strategy is to keep us from loving one another, what better way than to keep us in fear of revealing our true hearts to one another and keeping us in fear about voicing our concerns when needed, nothing gets resolved and no one grows instead we find emotional and spiritual arrested development and the Body of Christ unable thereby to function as it should. Thank you Darin for being a true man after God's own heart. Love you xx

  123. Gravatar
    sskkyy88

    Excellent reading. Thanks so much, great share.

  124. Gravatar
    Abigail

    Is there a way to get a copy of that tape that so moved those people? I would LOVE to hear it.

    I so agree that there IS a place for anger and, yes, it CAN turn into bitterness. But I think that, when that happens, it is most likely because justice was thwarted...because the person was shut down and not allowed to speak...or be heard. Their reality was denied. All those things CAN lead to bitterness, but won't necessarily lead there.

    Bitterness, like any other emotion, can be worked through in healthy ways. We are called to be angry and sin not.

  125. Gravatar
    Terre Woodhead

    As an Ex-Pastor who has had the good fortune of told I had a "root of bitteness" due to my strong views on the institutional mindset and it's practices, I sure appreciate this article Darin!!!!!! 8-)

  126. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Thanks Terre. I appreciate you:-)

  127. Gravatar
    Just Curious

    This is beautiful. Thank you for saying so perfectly what is in my mind and heart as well.

  128. Gravatar
    Wynette

    I totally agree with Darin. Very well said! Kudos. I have fought to stand up to the self Righteous Church crowd and they enjoy slinging the "bitterness" word at me. TRUTH is what I say. I shine the light of truth in a dark world. When you look at the life of Jesus, He called those religious people vipers, thieves, and sons of satan. Sounds a little bitter there Jesus. To the prostitute and demon possessed he had nothing but love, kindness, and understanding. He uplifted and healed them. Thanks Jesus for loving me as I am.

  129. Gravatar
    Herbey

    "Bitterness" in its proper context as an emotion for "grave" injustices presented to us in this world, is and should be a healthy reaction to such actions. But also a healthy dose of "forgive them father,for they know not what they do"..is just as legitimate for killing such a root. That is the root of bitterness. :-)

  130. Gravatar
    alice ferguson

    D****d right you have to get angry/outraged at the lies, the abuse, the sheer ignorance of the IC. The word bitterness,to me, connotes the lingering pockets of resentments that can collect when fury is NOT epressed!! Again, Darin,thanks for fearless and piercing analysis.

  131. Gravatar
    Berni

    If I could give you a standing ovation for writing this I would. Bravo!!!!!! I will share this in hopes that some eyes start to open. Thank you.

  132. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Thanks Berni.

  133. Gravatar
    Kay

    I live in Australia & these experiences are common here as well. I often wondered why I would react to authority figures in a negative way. I began to pray about this & believe it started when I was abused by a church elder at the age of 12. I made judgements about them that caused a root of bitterness to grow & this bore negative fruit in my life. I believe forgiveness is a process & not a 'one-off' event & we need God's grace to enable us to do this. We also need safe people who will help us with this. I was unable to forgive until I was able to express the anger & at times rage I felt towards the perpetrator. There will always be those in authority who use their power to abuse but maybe reactions to this are only the fruit of a deeper core issue that needs to be addressed.

  134. Gravatar
    Tom (near Toronto)

    I used to have a dear old Pastor, who was probably the most Christ-like person I've ever known, who used to preach: The bible says "BE YE ANGRY... !! "

  135. Gravatar
    Lea

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU

  136. Gravatar
    alicia cain

    sounds real and down to earth

  137. Gravatar
    DaRon Maughon

    FANTASTIC, DARIN!!!!!! I was pondering this very thing today!!!!! Thank you so much for shedding light and bringing clarity! You rock, dude! Peace!

  138. Gravatar
    David

    The truth sets us free. As we speak it in love (and in my experience that sometimes means having to push through a lot of resistance and conflict)we grow up into Him Who is the Head, even Christ Jesus. I'm not a pastor, I couldn't do or be those things that are needful, but few are the pastors who teach and live this vital part of the NT. Lord have mercy...

  139. Gravatar
    Eddy Hooper

    Right now I'm so angry and my daugther's soccer coach for the way she's been treated I've been wondering what to do. This topic is right on par with what I'm going through because I can see where those rings can really pull you around wanting you to "step in line" instead of being honest with ourselves and others we're ticked off. At the same time, I'm still wanting to show grace to the person I'm ticked off at giving them the chance to explain why they did the thing they did. Whether this leads to change or breakthrough is hard to say, but at least they know my displeasure and how I just won't stay silent and just let things go staus quo without any challenge. Thanks for clearing the air on this subject with such depth and spiritual insight.

  140. Gravatar
    Mike

    I think we know that there are people out there that are angry, vocal, and confrontational. I don't think any of them are then consequently evil. I think all those things can lead to necessary change, reconciliation and unity. When those things (above) are used and it only creates pain and hurt and no "good fruit" then that's a problem. I was always under the impression that the bitterness (often labeled the root of bitterness by deliverance people) comes from unforgiveness toward others. (I think we see no evidence in the bible of forgiveness to an entity/institution.) I think we can all agree that if bitterness is the fruit that follows a stubborn refusal to forgive, is problematic and sinful. Otherwise... I think the term is being misused.

  141. Gravatar
    Mark

    Great subject. Totally relate. My experience includes a strong anger that I cannot make the blind see the lies. My frustration I noticed was too often pointed at the person, so I've tried to release more of my adament agression concerning "making them see", and concentrating on forgiving as quickly as possible, working hard to model the forgiveness, and still trying to channel the anger constructively. The lies and deception continue, and it's tough at times to find a way to communicate effectively without attacking that deception and,..........sounding"negative". I feel forced to make the message as flowery as possible. Churches have incubated their babies from birth to the grave, and they're not embarrassed of it.

  142. Gravatar
    Clay

    This assumes an either/or mentality. God created us to have emotion - a physiological response to an actual or perceived situation. Our emotional manifestations are the evidence of how we've interpreted the situation and/or how we've learned to deal with the situation. One situation can leave a person angry, another in fear, another worry, some even excited. All experienced the same situation, but had different responses, or "emotions."

    It doesn't have to be anger or complicity. Why not grief? That is a legitimate emotional response. Why anger? It only leads to evil (Ps 37:8). This was written in the context of serious injustice. Yet, the admonition to cease from anger/fretting is repeated over and over. Man's anger does not produce God's righteousness (James 1:20).

    We can have impetous to do God's will without anger or bitterness. Spiritual fruit, not fleshly works are needed (Gal 5:13-26). See what list anger is in. Spirit zeal does not have to be manifest in anger or bitterness.

  143. Gravatar
    Michele

    This is so true. Much of your article resonated in my soul. Thank you for openly sharing your heart.

  144. Gravatar
    Anne

    "Bitterness is, for most Free Believers, the exit door from their religious bondage" Yep, I struggle with that word, but was just fed up with the lack of life and responsiviness in the IC, not to mention the total disregard for anything I had to say unless it "fit" very neatly into the acceptable script. Leaving is hard when you think you are alone. God brought a friend, but finding lots of great kinmanship here. Thanks.

  145. Gravatar
    Thomas A. Wheeler

    Very Good post. I have found that this behavior of these leaders resemble that of sociopaths. see www.facebook.com/pages/Church-Survivors/351959144822796 to see behaviors of Sociopaths and you will see what I mean! But this is a behavior of them to not feel the pain of others!

  146. Gravatar
    Mel Newland

    Great post!
    Why don't we empower people and tell them who they are in the kingdom, let them minister and why submit to a religious structure man (Constantine 313AD) put inplace?
    I think various reasons:
    A) they like the system because it works for THEM!
    B) it's all they know
    C) they believe they are the man/woman of the hour with all the power!...that's not scriptural...no spectator Christianity in the bible! All disciples doing the works..JESUS IS THE MAN OF THE HOUR WITH ALL THE POWER!
    D) NOT HUMBLE ENOUGH TO USE OTHERS!
    E) Must have a title/orphan Spirit! that's a big one!
    F) Don't know what true church government is, 5 fold ministry etc..
    My strongest emotion is FRUSTRATION! but I understand/accept them all!
    I have a youtube clip Mel Newland Ministries - Church of Acts v's Modern Church may be of interest to those fed up with this watered down system we all "church'"... Bless you, your awesome ministry also!

  147. Gravatar
    Samuel

    I got extremely angry at God and was yelling at him and screaming my deepest questions. He answered immediately in a voice I could hear and answered my main question that everything was hinged upon. That was the begining of my spiritual freedom and intimate walk with the Lord.

  148. Gravatar
    Kevin Peterson

    Great post Darin....I too went through anger and bitterness when I discovered that my 8 year old son didn't have to die from cancer and that much of what we had been taught for 15 years wasn't the Gospel. 5 years on and I seem to have dealt with the bitterness / anger but there still remains a righteous anger towards any belief that puts Christians into bondage. There still exists a very unhealthy element in the church today to keep silenced any opinion that is not in agreement with mainstream Christian opinion by tagging it as critical or rooted in bitterness. I have often been labeled as an angry bitter dad with an axe to grind. So far the "grinding of that axe"has seen thousands of people see that God our Father is good all the time.

  149. Gravatar
    David Taylor

    My wife and I left our local church and took our ministry (an after school program for street kids) with us. Before we left I met with a new member of the pastoral staff who was a good friend. I told him I wanted to leave but knew we would be labeled as "evil" or bad in someway for leaving. I told him why I was angry at the church pastors for their behind the scenes wronging of my family and covering it up. The pastors labeled us as "unforgiving" and "bitter". Now a church I served for years and led dozens of teens to Jesus in doesn't even talk to us...members turn and walk away around us. You can not leave the church without having to be labeled. In a small town people fear the label over love for freedom and truth...Thank you for your clarity in this matter.

  150. Gravatar
    Tim

    I did a quick search for Abusive Churches and Bitterness and found your great post. I have been wanting to write something on bitterness myself as I was recently labeled bitter by those within the institutional church I was kicked out of for standing up for truth. Your post is very thorough and resonates loudly with what I have experienced.

    I will be sure to share this with others - although the others I want to share it with have been programmed to disregard those who encourage you to read something written from another man... Meanwhile they listen 2-3+ times per week a message from their abusive leader.

  151. Gravatar
    Mary

    "Anger and resentment are filled with personal projection and blame. That is because people are hurt, and when they are hurt, they want to react, they want to fight back and they want to get their pain out of their mind and give it away to someone else, usually to the person whom they think is the source of their pain." http://www.newmessage.org/nmfg/Relationships_and_Higher_Purpose.html

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