Bitterness lets the terrorists win

[Update: I originally posted this the evening of 4/3/07 but felt unsettled about the wording of certain sections, even after several re-writes. So I pulled the post late that night. After a night of sleep, some more prayer, and discussion with Bryan, I still stand by it. This morning I revised it a little more to round out the sharp corners, and reposted. And I believe this is how it will remain. So if you view this in a reader, I apologize for the multiple posts and encourage you to read this latest version.]

Lately I have been thinking a lot about anger and forgiveness and trust. How does one forgive someone who hasn’t expressed they’ve done something to hurt you? And if they do eventually ask your forgiveness, is it true forgiveness if you can not bring yourself to trust them again? Does forgiveness require trust? And what about anger? Even if one feels anger righteously, if the conflict is not resolved how long will it be before even the righteous anger turns to bitterness?

In the blog world we use terms like ‘flame wars’ and ‘trolls’ to describe the mean people and their words. I don’t know what to call what is happening to me offline, but since it feels like a flame war, that is what I will call it.

In the aftermath of Kathy Sierra’s post (which I wrote about here), there has been much said by people I respect – things that cause me to stop, think, and reflect on my own situation.

For instance, as I sat down to write and lament and cry some more, I noticed that my friend Maryam had written a beautiful essay about letting it go and moving on. Specifically, she says,

When you are punched, your immediate response is to want to punch back. If you are blinded by rage and hurt, you may not be directing your aim correctly. Most of what I’ve been going through and how I have been feeling last week after what I read about the anonymous attacks on me resonates with this point. In trying to deal with the hurt caused by those words, I was punching the wall over and over again. As a result, I was getting hurt, crying, screaming and feeling helpless. Well that was pretty useless.

Maryam’s husband, Robert, also posted his thoughts

It’s very hard to not focus too much energy on attacks. In the past few weeks hundreds of people have come up to me at various events and said “I love your blog.” I don’t know that I can name more than a few of those people (I have business cards, though, heheh) but I can name tons of people who have said something nasty about me over the same time period. Something wrong when we give those who hate us more time and emotional energy than those who love us. Guilty as charged.

These statements were convicting to my soul, and they made me think about my own situation and how much power I am giving to people who personally attack me and my husband. They remind me, once again, that I can not control what other people think or say about me – I can only control how I respond.

So I have responded by finding comfort in God’s word, and these are some of the things he is saying to me through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (using a paraphrase called, The Message):

It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay.

There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.

Wouldn’t it be far better to just take it, to let yourselves be wronged and forget it? All you’re doing is providing fuel for more wrong, more injustice, bringing more hurt to the people of your own spiritual family.

We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions – but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.

But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.

We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did.

I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best! First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is. The best that can be said for it is that the testing process will bring truth in to the open and confirm it.

For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are part of.

When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony.

Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.

And finally, I love this from Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

I am really struggling with wanting to punch back. I am really struggling with giving the hurtful things too much of my emotional energy. I am really struggling with forgiveness and trust. I want to believe the words of Paul, and I want to find comfort and conviction in them. I want to let go and let God fight the battle for me and bring about his own reconciliation, but at the moment I am too angry at the hurtful words being flung my direction – hurt to the point where even ‘I love you’ can only be heard as a smarmy platitude.

Sometimes I think I could fight a really good war of words, inflicting a lot of bloody casualties of my own. But in the end I know I will only end up getting hurt, crying, screaming, and feeling helpless. And that, as Maryam says, is pretty useless.

And to top it off, I was blown away when I read this on Kathy Sierra’s latest update:

When I was first bombarded by the media about this story, I refused to answer questions. Having no media experience, I found that when you don’t answer a reporter, they’ll tell your story without you, so I agreed to speak with a few. When I was asked for a short CNN interview, I said that I would do it only if they would let me invite Chris Locke as well. Needless to say, everyone including Chris was stunned to hear this.

But these stories should not be about me… I am simply one of a gazillion examples about what’s happening today both on and offline. Nor is it a simple Nice Vs. Bully story, and I thought having us come to an understanding would encourage others to stop fighting on either of our behalves and try to listen first, and then talk, and maybe something good and useful really will come of this.

Honestly, I cannot imagine sitting in the same room today with some who have hurt me. I cannot imagine having a rational conversation. I cannot imagine some still having eyeballs when I walk out of the room.


Of course – this is definitely NOT what Jesus would do.

Will I always feel this way? I hope to God I don’t. I hope that, like Kathy, I can spend hours on the phone or over a drink working this out and finding reconciliation. And even if joint reconciliation can’t be found, I hope I can forgive. I hope I can let go. But that will definitely be a God thing.

In the meantime I pray. I cry. I run miles on the elliptical. I take hot baths. And I write.

I know God loves me. I know Christ is in me. I know the Holy Spirit will convict me. Anyone not in concert with them can put a sock in it.

6 thoughts on “Bitterness lets the terrorists win”

  1. I’m so sorry you have experienced this hurt. I really don’t know you, but you seem like such an honest person who is truly sharing where you are on your journey…I think some people can’t deal with this kind of honesty, but, I for one, as a fellow traveler and follower of Christ, truly appreciate you sharing where you are on the journey! Take heart…breathe….trust the one who is truly trustworthy!!!

  2. For those of us engaging with you via your blog, is there history of what has happened? I feel out of the loop and want to pray for you – if you don’t wish to share, by all means don’t but know you’re being thought of and loved.

  3. Jen,

    You are way ahead of me. I have not forgiven and I have not forgotten. If I run into any of these jerks, someone will have to stop me before I make some serious damage. I just have decided not to waste any more time on them, because I don’t know who they are. I have realized that one can not live life under the shadow of resentment. Thanks for this post.

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