Shades of Bitter

Years ago my father-in-law (a pastor who was also my boss at the time) told me a story of another pastor who warned those young in the ministry not to get “too close” to those in their church congregations. The reasoning was that it causes you to be vulnerable and eventually leads to getting hurt.

As most of us hear a story like that, emotions are triggered within us. Some of us hear that story and would tend to agree that we should keep people at an arm’s distance to avoid getting hurt. Others hear a story like this and totally disagree. They believe that life is meant to be shared and the hurt is worth the risk. 

So, my question is this: What do you do when when you’ve allowed someone into your life… been vulnerable with them… given them your absolute love and friendship, and then that person ends up doing and saying hurtful things to you or trashes your reputation? What do you do when you get hurt?

The Christian response is always, “Turn the other cheek,” but somewhere in the turning of the other cheek, I’m concerned that we can become calloused and cold. The experience of getting burned can cause us to shrink back from being vulnerable and transparent with people; it can cause us to put up walls and keep our circle of friends as small as possible to avoid going through the same experience again.

In the book, “A Tale of Three Kings,” Gene Edwards discusses the importance of getting good at dodging the spears of the enemy. If you are bitter, there’s a good chance you got hit by the spear. 

The pain of a failed relationship is very difficult and the sting of the pain is very real, but can I encourage you to keep on loving… keep on being real, honest, and transparent, and keep on dodging the spears of the enemy. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have conflict with people (it actually means the opposite), but when the conflict arises, you will be able to lovingly discuss the matter with the relationship being the priority over the need to be “right”. The saying, “hurt people, hurt people,” is true. Forgive those you need to forgive and move on free from bitterness.

“You can easily tell when someone has been hit by a spear. he turns a deep shade of bitter. David never got hit. Gradually, he learned a very well-kept secret... One, never learn anything about the fashionable, easily mastered art of spear throwing. Two, stay out of the company of all spear throwers. And three, keep your mouth tightly closed. In this way, spears will never touch you, even when they pierce your heart.” 

Gene Edwards, A Tale of Three Kings