The Blinding Power of Bitterness

April 13, 2017

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:6-7

blind bitternessAt the very front end of Cain’s anger and frustration, before it had lead to anything permanently damaging, God warned him.  “Cain, you better get control of this anger, or it will get control of you.”  Well, that’s my paraphrase.  God was warning Cain about a part of the human condition to which we often turn a blind eye: anger is not something to leave unattended.  Unresolved anger, you see, turns into bitterness.  And bitterness, over time, is a disease that spreads into our heart, our eyes, our brain, and a host of other places.

I have seen it way too many times in my ministry to churches in conflict.  When passions get high and anger is left to fester over time, finding the truth about what really happened can become nearly impossible.  That is because anger makes for a horrible historian.  It twists the truth and blinds us to what really happened.  The longer we stay angry, the less credibility we have for reporting what happened.  However poor our retention rate is for facts and figures we have seen or heard, our retention rate for what we felt is almost perfect.  So, in situations which anger us, if that anger is left alone to do its dirty work, we later remember how we felt and then back into the rest of the facts in a way which supports how we felt. In other words, our brain fills in the gaps and recalls events in a way which makes sense out of our feelings, whether or not that recollection is accurate.

This is why, in reconciliation counseling, an angry party can give vivid details about the event at the heart of his/her anger  but which bear no resemblance whatsoever to the event as captured on video or as recalled by a host of other, “less invested” parties.  Bitterness, over time, can completely rob us of the ability to recall with any accuracy at all the event which caused our anger.  Bitterness blinds us to the truth.

Once blinded, we are capable of virtually all manner of ridiculous conclusions.  We will question a brother’s motives, we will make ludicrous accusations, and we will take pathways we would never have dreamed of taking before.

Back to our old friend, Cain.  He brings an ill-considered offering to God, and God frowns on it.  Cain becomes angry.  The anger festers.  He becomes blinded to the truth and comes to the irrational conclusion that, in order to make his pain go away, his brother would have to die.  How’s that for ridiculous logic?

But before you cast stones at Cain, ask yourself this: what has your own unresolved anger caused you to think that is just as ridiculous?  More importantly, if you do have unresolved anger, how would you even know whether your conclusion is ridiculous or not?  How can you trust your own brain?  It is, after all, infected…

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