Answering the Charge of Bitterness

by E.L. Anglin

Often when I voice theological perspectives that diverge from my religious heritage I am accused of of anger, hurt and bitterness.

It hurts to be told I've "left truth," and that I "never loved God."
It hurts to be told that I'm "destroying everything I've built."
It hurts to be called "an enemy of the cross."

Those are things I've heard just this week. There are too many other insults to list.

I've considered the charges of hurt and bitterness and found that, at times, they have merit. But if and when a friend, former ally, or internet poster makes those charges, aren't they admitting that their system was in some way to blame? How is it possible that simply everyone who leaves is somehow angry or bitter? Is there something inherently damaging that's driving many away or can the mass defections all be chalked up to rebellion?

If all who leave are hurt or bitter, then one must consider that something within the system is flawed. Damaging. Perhaps it's the complete inability to reasonably discuss differences of opinion. Maybe it's that those who disagree in even the smallest way are thrown to the curb. It's possible that questions and study aren't welcome when they might possibly lead to unapproved conclusions.

The irony is that often those who level the charges are the source of the pain.

An acquaintance of mine, Steven Cantu, recently shared something profound in a group I chair. He said "Pain always reveals disease, it's a blessing to be revealed through time. Christ the great physician heals what man has wounded. Time is not a healer, but a revealer of how God heals."

Pain propels us to change. We move our hand away from a hot stove. Layers of clothing protect us from frost's bite. Band-aids cover our wounds. It's natural to recoil when hurt. It's humane to warn others of potential dangers.

Pain is the body's warning system. The soul's, too.
Only the truly psychotic refuse to recoil from pain.

Legalism turns the idea of church as sanctuary upside down. It dehumanizes us. When our worth is based solely upon our looks we are nothing more than dolls. When our worth is based solely upon our submission to a system, we are nothing more than numbers and machines.

Before you level the charges of hurt, anger and bitterness consider this...

Why, when you consider all who speak against certain doctrines, do you immediately consider them hurting and angry victims? What makes you surmise this? Do you subconsciously recognize something systemically damaging? Though some hurts are self-inflicted, what could be changed to ease possible hurt in the future?

It's possible that not everyone who disagrees is hurt, angry or bitter. It's possible that some have prayerfully considered scripture and discovered flaws in something they've been taught. It's possible that they have realigned their life to reflect that new understanding. You must understand how hard that must be.

If you truly feel someone has been hurt, pray for them, but don't assign hurt where it doesn't exist. That's false witness.


This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.


Page added February 12, 2015

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