The other day I complained to a friend about a man we both knew. My words: “I’m so sick of Rich White Baby Boomer Men like him being so bitter about life because the parachute wasn’t quite golden enough.”
My friend laughed and I kept going: “I mean. Really, like life is perfect for you, feeding you every opportunity, getting out of your way so you can achieve whatever you want. You’ve never had to fight for one darned thing, and then you’re angry because you can only afford to take that around-the-world cruise every other year. Come on!”
Or, something like that. And then my friend had to head to a meeting–leaving me to sit stewing in my thoughts. And then the feelings started poking through my internal rage.
While God likes to make me wait for lots and lots of things in life, he’s always super quick with me when it comes time to convict me of my hypocrisy or harshness. It’s so annoying.
But, of course, there is something a bit outrageous about me–a woman who just wrote a book called Grumble Hallelujah and who writes and speaks about the need to grieve disappointments and who has recently expressed hurt at being called spoiled for not having a hard enough life to complain about–taking issue with someone else for doing the same thing.
Point well taken, God. Good thing those mercies are new every morning.
But while I sought forgiveness for my meanness, I have kept thinking about what it is that troubles me about this particular person. And, in truth, it’s not that this person is disappointed in life. It really is that the person seems to be stuck on bitter. Which is a very different thing than expressing disappointment or grieving or grumbling hallelujah.
Bitterness is actually the opposite of those things. Because bitterness is what comes from not “dealing” with disappointments, frustration or hurts. Bitterness comes when we don’t forgive, when we don’t stop comparing, when we don’t seek God in the twists of life. And bitterness–as we know–does horrible things to a person. To us, when we allow it to take root–and bloom.
Perhaps one of the worst things it does, however, is repel people. Push them away. Because bitterness contaminates every ounce our being, every story we tell, every opinion we offer.
This doesn’t seem to happen when someone is sharing a sorrow in life. That’s an act that can draw people to us, bring them in. So I’ve kept thinking about the difference between these two. What makes a person seem bitter and thus repellant? And what makes them seem honest and inviting?