A Look at Bitterness, Part Three
Authored by Tina Kapp
This third and last part of “a look at bitterness” series covers a rather tricky subject: feeling “bitter” about yourself, whether it’s disliking the way you look, certain traits about yourself, or your perceived lack of skills or experience.
All of us feel sorry for ourselves sometimes and get discouraged that we’re not what or where we wish we were in life. We look at other people who seem to have it together and think we’re just not good enough.
Surprisingly, as human as it may be to feel this way, it’s a very dangerous path to be on and can affect our friendships and relationship with the Lord. Since God made us, when we dwell on what we dislike about ourselves, it’s like we’re telling God that He didn’t do a good job and that He has disappointed us.
Have you ever been around people who constantly make negative remarks about themselves, such as always going on and on about their weight, their looks, or their lack of abilities? It’s no fun at all, and you get tired of trying to encourage and cheer them up all the time and probably soon start avoiding their company altogether. If, however, you’re the one that people may be avoiding, cheer up! For one, you’re not alone. It’s an easy trap of negativity to fall into. But also know that there is a way to be free from that grasp of bitterness and negativity, no matter how deep in it you are.
There’s an old saying that goes, “Two men look through the same bars. One sees the mud, the other sees the stars.” They’re both looking at the same scenery but they focus on two very different parts. When you look at yourself you can choose what it is you want to focus on: the bad or the good.
There’s a tropical plant called Mikania micrantha which is sometimes called the “mile-a-minute” plant or “bitter vine,” which can grow at incredible speeds! Young plants sometimes grow as fast as 8 cm in 24 hours! It’s considered an invasive pest, as it covers other plants and blocks any sunlight from getting to them, causing them to die. It’s become such a problem in Nepal that it actually covers 20 percent of Chitwan National Park.
I remember reading an article that likened bitterness to a killer vine like that. It starts so small and looks harmless, but the goal is to block you from the light and ultimately destroy your usefulness.
The way to fight off the “killer vines” in your life is to give them no place—in your thoughts, in what you say, or in your reactions to people’s positive view of you. Discover how much you’re worth to both God and those who love you. You can do this by reading God’s Word and learning to accept and believe the compliments that your family and friends offer you. Also, learn to appreciate yourself and have self-esteem!
Having self-esteem isn’t thinking you’re perfect or that you are better than others; that’s a very different attitude. Self-esteem to me means simply knowing how much God loves you, that He made you for a reason, and that He has a plan for you. I always liked the verse where King David praises the Lord because he was “fearfully and wonderfully made.”1
King David was created the same way you were, with all the incredible and complex systems that we casually sang about as kids in the hit action song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” That’s not even mentioning the incredible workings of your brain, nervous system, heart, and lungs. God didn’t waste any time making an amazing, detailed you.
Even if you don’t like parts about yourself—and trust me: everyone feels that way, including actors and supermodels—you can make a choice to not let it affect you negatively. You can choose to focus on the good things about yourself and choose to trust that God knew what He was doing when He made you as you are.
Ephesians says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.“2 Another word for “workmanship” is “masterpiece.” Which is proof that you’re not a cookie-cutter product; you are truly one of a kind!
Whenever I get discouraged with myself or my circumstances, I’m reminded of the verse, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”3 Then I think, Maybe the Lord just isn’t finished with me yet!
Imagine if an artist were working hard on a complex painting, and the picture didn’t think it looked right or beautiful enough, and decided to quit and leave. The artist would argue, “Hey, I’m not finished with you yet! Have some patience!” And because we all know that God is the ultimate artist, He won’t let us down, and everything will make sense and turn out all right in the end.
Maybe you aren’t bitter about your looks but more about your abilities—you wish you were more talented or coordinated or that you could play sports better or do better at school. I have to agree that some people seem to “have it all” or have an easier go at things. The Bible even acknowledges that. In the parable of the talents, the master of the house gave each servant a different amount of talents, but he expected those with more talents to do more with them. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”4
I read about a beautiful dream a guy had where everyone was walking through life carrying a cross. Some crosses were embedded with gems and crystals, while others were gloriously entwined with roses. His, however, was very plain, so he wondered what he’d done wrong and why he hadn’t gotten a nicer one. The Lord appeared and told him that he could try some of the others, and he was very excited to get rid of his old, boring one. He quickly exchanged it for one covered in gold and precious stones, but he found that it was so much heavier, he could barely drag it along the ground. He then tried one with roses and realized the thorns made it very difficult to carry without pricking himself. After trying a few others, he was more than happy to take his simple one back, which now seemed just perfect for him.
If you can learn to appreciate the “cross” that God has given you to carry, you’ll find that your life will become much more satisfying and fulfilling. Choosing to count your blessings and focus on the good about yourself and your life will change the way you see the world—and, surprisingly, can start to change the way the world sees you too.
1 Psalm 139:14
2 Chapter 2, verse 10
3 Philippians 1:6
4 Luke 12:48
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International