This is Part 4 of Seven Lessons on How to be an overcomer from mom (Lessons 4-5)
In part 1, 2 and 3 I have laid out the foundation for being an overcomer as I have learned from my mother. As you have read, her life had opposition and obstacles that she had to overcome. By faith, she has proven an example to me and many others so I thought I would share these with you.
In living a life as an overcomer we have to take steps away from things that weigh us down. When you have been the underdog, opposed, and even abused, the human thing is to constantly riff on the events. You may not be a war vet, but your battles may have scarred you enough to cause some post traumatic stress. You just can’t seem to stop the scene from playing. The first step, it seems, is to make a couple choices that help you press pause on these tapes that keep playing in your mind and that might even be causing paralysis in your life.
Now, it is not easy to make the two choices in Lessons 4 and 5. You may have become habits to break. But, with faith you can do it. It is also true that you have to keep making these choices, because if you are like me and the rest of the human race you might mess up in the process. Get back up and keep going. Now, here are the two choices.
Lesson 4: Never let bitterness take root. Bitterness is an enemy. Once you are intoxicated by this venom, you will infect others with it. To be bitter is always a bad choice. Why? Simply, it takes energy to wish bad on other people and neither brings justice or peace to you. Bitterness is easy. Bitterness is internally expressing the anger in the direction of the one that hurt you, but because its internal it points back at you. Your anger really then is at yourself.
Perhaps you blame yourself for not acting perfectly, causing the offense or hurt. You stay up at night questioning yourself, replaying every word in the painful scene. You get more and more angry since replaying the scene is like reopening the wound. Since the anger deflects back to you, you may become paralyzed when you need to be moving on in life. Bitterness steals away your mobility.
Here is the remarkable wisdom Jesus has for us.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:43-45
To be someone who thinks and is “heavenly” you have to be willing to let go and hope for the best, even for those that hurt you. This does not mean you should repress anger. It is alright to feel hurt for being hurt. Simply, to see people the way God sees them is freeing. God values people. While we were still in sin and walking away from him, Jesus died for us. Grace is the response to bitterness. Besides, does it really make sense to choose to want bad for people if it poisons good for us?
Lesson 5: Remove yourself from hurtful situations if need be. Don’t be a punching bag or a doormat. God values you, too. Sometimes you are not safe to be where you are and need to physically or relationally sever ties to an offender. This needs to be said, since it is one thing to not allow yourself to become bitter and even hateful to your opposer while it is another to allow yourself to be in the proximity of one who keeps hurting you.
A popular word, “boundaries”, has been around for a while in Christian circles. It is not unloving to remove yourself from a hurtful relationship. You don’t have to keep sharing information that others will use against you. Friends stick closer than a brother, so if this person is hurting you and calls himself a “friend” then you need to check your definition. And, you might need new friends.
Sometimes walking away could be the most painful decision of your life. But, being an overcomer means you might have to use this rather extreme option. Let me point out that “walking away” may be literal for one, it can simply mean setting up some healthy boundaries for the rest of us. Don’t call or text this person. Don’t invite them over. Don’t share your personal feelings with him or her.
You see, you can still love while having a safe distance to people who are not safe. You can even be with them at Thanksgiving dinner each fall. But, you can also make sure you protect yourself from intrusion emotionally by steering clear of their wrath and even their malice. Loving an enemy does not mean putting a target on your chest and signaling your position. It simply means not causing harm or even wishing harm to them.
Here are some questions to ponder:
- Are you up late at night replaying a hurtful scene?
- Do you feel shame for wishing hurt on your offenders?
- Are you able to shield yourself from unhealthy people?
- What is keeping you in a relationship that is hurtful?
Look for another post soon for the final 2 lessons from mom.