BIn the previous article I wrote on the danger of adopting and being held captive by a victim mentality. It is so easy for humans to play the victim because we have all been victims at some stage of hurtful and unloving attitudes, words and actions. However as we saw in the case of Joseph in the Old Testament, victims can learn to triumph in spite of all the negativity they encounter. Perhaps we know of friends and acquaintances who have been through a living hell in their lives and yet today are among the most positive and supportive people on the globe. They became victors instead of remaining as victims. It is possible! By the grace of God!
Bitterness distorts reality
As we are seeing in recent days, bitterness can cause those who suffer from it, to become even more negative and to lose a sense of reality. The human race was warned about that centuries ago in the words of Asaph in the Psalms. He wrote in Psalm 73:1, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” That was a great way to start the Psalm, but he then went on to describe how he felt about those who were not nice, who seemed to receive God’s blessing as well, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 or I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:2. The Psalm continues with Asaph getting more and more bitter about the seeming prosperity of the wicked. He was being destroyed by his own bitterness. But he changed! For the good!
He tells what happened in verses 16 to 19, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!” When he took the time to think seriously about God, he realised that God is not mocked. His grace is poured out on the good and the bad in this life, but there comes a time when everyone is accountable to Him for the lives they have lived. Destruction eventually comes upon those who have had no time for Him.
Asaph learnt something about himself in the process. It was a humbling but enlightening discovery. He put it like this, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.” Psalm 73:21-22. He realised he had become a bitter person. His bitterness had inwardly wounded him. It had caused him to become irrational. His thinking was on the level of an animal, not of a person made in the image of God. His view of reality had become distorted.
Bitterness destroys relationships
St Paul saw bitterness as destructive to human relationships, so he urged his readers to get rid of it, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Eph 4:31. It was interesting for me as a former Industrial chemist to see that the word for “bitterness” in the New Testament Greek is the word [pikria]. It is the basis of the word [picric] as in picric acid. This acid is not only bitter but highly unstable and very explosive. [An article in The Royal Society of Chemistry publication tells us that “In 1885, French chemist François Eugène Turpin patented the use of the acid as a bursting charge for artillery shells.”] What a great description that is of bitterness. Bitterness is not only bitter to the taste, but causes mental instability in those who harbour it and becomes explosive in relationships when not dealt with properly. People need to get rid of it!
Why we all need to get rid of bitterness
What if we fail to do so? What if bitterness remains? The writer to the Hebrews gave a strong warning to his/her readers, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Heb 12:14-15. Many are affected adversely when bitterness is allowed to fester in any individual or group. They are “defiled” where the word means to be stained, sullied, stained, corrupted.
That is the point that Paul made in Titus 1:15, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Those with corrupted minds and consciences lose touch with reality They imagine everyone and everything else to be corrupt but themselves!
The disastrous cocktail of bitterness and victim mentality
Bitterness contaminates individuals, groups and even many in political parties. That is obvious as we look at our TV screens and see there those who have drunk the toxic cocktail of bitterness mixed in with their victim mentality. Many who have done so have lost any sense of proportion. They no longer think rationally. Their faces are twisted with bitterness and they fail to see any good in people or even good policies in another political party. They play asinine infantile political games while ordinary people [for whom they seem to have no compassion, concern or respect] suffer terribly. The trouble is that corrupt leaders corrupt others and many beautiful precious “run of the mill” folk [in the eyes of such people] are ignored and badly disadvantaged as a result! Only the “enlightened elite” like themselves matter!
There are many examples of such folk in American, British and Australian politics. Perhaps we have recognised those who have drunk the disastrous cocktail as we observe their crassness, bitterness and their inability to face up to reality as we observe them on TV. For example there are many in the USA who appear to be suffering from a heavy dose of victim mentality. Many of them Republicans and many of them Democrats. Some Republicans could not believe that a businessman like Donald Trump could eventually become President. They believed that their choice [a true and trusted politician] should have become President. Even when Trump was elected it seems that many of these folk felt they had become victims of other less-enlightened voters. “Don’t ordinary people realise that politics must be run by politicians!” They have added bitterness to their cocktail and have become less than supportive to the President, to say the least!
On the other hand there appear to be many democrats who still can’t accept that Trump was elected President. They see themselves as the victims of “deplorables” and other uninformed voters who cast the wrong votes in the election. Or they are the victims of a flawed Electoral College system. Or victims of Russian collusion. OR! OR! OR! It’s as though they believe that they are living in an unreal world where Trump is President, but it can’t be so! So to get back to reality as they see it, they have to try to get rid of him by any means possible. The morality of the process doesn’t seem to matter, as you hear them speak on TV or read what they have written. The end [getting rid of Trump} justifies the means [any process that achieves that end.} As you hear some speak on TV it’s as though bitterness fills the air and compassion for the needy has evaporated. Some have repeatedly said that a wall is necessary but when it is Trump who wants it, all of a sudden the “necessary” and “once-desired” becomes “immoral!” Other countries [and even some religions] are facing the same problems as bitterness is mixed in with their victim mentality. Hatred and distrust spreads! Confusion results!
Is there an answer?
What then is the answer? How can people with fixed mid-sets [such as a victim mentality] become more open to reality. There is an old saying, “Never argue with a drunk!” because their minds are not open to reason while they remain in an intoxicated state. It is obviously hard to argue with those still swilling their disastrous cocktail of bitterness mixed with victim mentality.
There appears to be only one answer and that is to petition the good Lord to bring the necessary changes in people by a powerful move of His Holy Spirit. In this way dangerous minds sets can be broken and they can become open to change. If only all people, groups and individuals could learn to recognise bitterness and unforgiveness in their own hearts and turn to the Lord to be free, they would be able to do what St Paul went on to write in the next verse, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32. It involves actively seeking the best interests of others by being kind and compassionate to them and by forgiving them in the same way that Christ forgave us. That is a pretty tall order! But it is possible by the grace of God as we seek His help in becoming the gracious people of God He wants every human to be.
Bitterness added to a victim mentality makes a strong destructive cocktail for any individual. But a cocktail which blends kindness, compassion and forgiveness can bring healing to millions as it is imbibed and shared with others!
Blog No.312 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 3rd February 2019