If you’ve ever seen the 1959 movie Ben Hur, there is a famous scene after the chariot race when Esther confronts Ben Hur. Ben Hur’s mother and sister were sent to the dungeons and he to the galleys out of revenge from his childhood Roman friend Messala. I won’t go into great detail since I’ve only seen the movie and haven’t read all of the book, but Ben Hur develops a burning hatred for Messala. After the death of Messala, Hur is still consumed with hatred and Esther turns to him after trying to speak to him of forgiveness and says:
It is as if you have become Messala.
It’s a rather thought-provoking line, but so true.
Hatred and bitterness only hurt you, not the person with whom you are angry. I recently ran into one particular person who was about the most bitter man I think I’ve ever encountered. All he wished to do was attack anyone who had a differing point of view since they couldn’t possibly be as intelligent as he. I was so tired at the time, I was completely taken off guard by his hurtful, mean words and didn’t even quite know what to say in response. Thankfully, I was saved by a friend who got me out of the situation. I have to admit I was angry and holding back tears because of the confrontation that happened not once but twice, yet I have to be careful that I don’t let his unhappiness breed the same bitterness in me.
All bitter people do is spread their venom. However, we are at fault if we decide to also drink the same poison.
What has been an interesting observation as I was doing research for my papers this semester, was to also see this phenomenon in governments. For example, the linguistic situation in Quebec, Canada. Some English speakers feel that Law 101 which made French the official language of Quebec was a law passed as some sort of revenge in light of the years of repression of French in Canada. One woman in a news interview accused the French speakers of becoming what they hated in the past in the Canadian government. I don’t blame the French speaking population for wanting to save their language, but one does have to wonder at what cost. The Canadian government had forced English on the French speakers which they resented, and then the French speakers in Quebec were forcing their language on the English speakers of Quebec. Ironic, right?
Aside from governments and cultures, in one’s personal life it is indeed a rather strange paradox really. You can be hurt by someone, but if you don’t forgive and move on, you will only continue hurting yourself and not the other person.
It is natural to become angry against someone who has wronged you or made you feel inferior. But, where is the power or the peace in remaining angry and becoming bitter?
As a youngster in middle school, I found myself at the brunt of some pretty serious bullying. It was terrible! People will claim that it’s just “kids being kids”, but it really is much more serious than that. What happens to kids in these circumstances can affect them for the rest of their lives and no, I’m not exaggerating. Thankfully, my mom taught me early on to pray for my bullies and not to become angry with them. I’m always thankful she did because God took the pain away and gave me peace.
It is a proven fact that most abusive people were once abused themselves. What does that tell you?
No, it doesn’t excuse being abusive. But, it does make one have to take an inward look. What has been done to us either in childhood or recently has to be dealt with. One cannot let it fester and boil. Letting it out isn’t easy either and it will often be a daily battle, but it is worth it! Here’s why:
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. ~ Proverbs 15:13A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. ~Proverbs 17:22
These two scriptures are rather fitting in that they show you what happens when you allow bitterness to stay and what happens if you don’t. What is interesting is how similar the two scriptures are, but what each says is slightly different. The first one addresses how one can break their spirit and how one can keep a “cheerful countenance”. the second scripture a couple of chapters later addresses the results of each. It’s kind of like a “Cause-Effect” analysis.
If you strive to have a merry heart despite the circumstances and the people you meet, this joy will be the medicine that fights against the venom of bitterness and hatred. However, if you allow sorrow to remain and turn into anger and then into hatred, that venom will only dry up your spirit and cause you harm.
So, I guess the true question is: