It was an encouragement to do the best you can with a good attitude and don’t be preoccupied with what others think of you.
Against that backdrop recently I was disappointed to hear that a person who hardly knows me said of me, “He is a bitter old man.” That is two-thirds true. I am a man and I am old. Bitter, never. I have always liked the statement by Booker T. Washington, who said in essence, “I will not let any man belittle my soul by making me bitter.” It has never been a part of my makeup. There is too much to enjoy and achieve to waste time on bitterness.
Martin Luther King Jr. is noted for saying, “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”
Bitterness is bad for health. There is an ageless axiom: “Bitterness does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to the one on which it is pored.”
A recent study by Dr. Carsten Wrosch professor of psychology at Concordia University in Montreal confirms this. According to this and other reports bitterness causes high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and a greater likelihood of death from heart disease.
German psychologists, led by Dr. Michel Linden, have a clinical term for bitterness: Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED). They have concluded it can spawn an array of problems such as depression, insomnia, emotional instability and rage outburst. Which I am thankful to report none of which I suffer. All of my medical check-ups indicate I have low blood pressure and a normal heart rate.
For two reasons we should avoid bitterness.
One, by being bitter with another we are not hurting that person, we are only hurting ourselves. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats up the host. Forgive.
Knowing the detrimental effects of bitterness, I share this formula for persons spiritually inclined as found in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”
Out of gratitude for forgiveness by God, the Higher Power, I forgive my peer, my equal, as a demonstration of my gratitude for being forgiven. Forgiveness is a show of appreciation for divine forgiveness.
Why would a person who hardly knows me, one with which I have had only one brief conversation in the last year conclude I am bitter? That conversation was at the funeral of a friend I dearly loved and related to her.
The answer to why such an accusation is found in a comment made by that great theologian Harry Truman. He really wasn’t a theologian, but a sage. He commented, “What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it does about Paul.”
Jesus phrased it this way. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you judge, you will be judged. ...”
In essence what we say about others is the way we would feel or react if we were in the other person’s position.
Following that train of thought the person who said I am bitter is himself bitter.
I am being transparent on this topic because studies indicate a high incidence of bitterness in our population. It is done with the hope it will encourage people to get it out of their lives.
Conversely, Scripture offers this: “A merry heart does good like a medicine.”
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church. For copies of previous columns visit www.nelsonprice.com