Thursday, 10 September 2015

"You're Just Bitter!"

How many times have christians used those words to shut down conversation?

To avoid genuine and meaningful interaction with a fellow believer?

To dismiss and deny valid grievances and justifiable anger?

How many christians have thrown those words into the face of their brother or sister in an attempt to keep themselves safe from having to evaluate their own behaviour - using accusations of bitterness as a talisman to ward off the pain of honest self-reflection.

Most times it's not even true - it's just an accusation to hide behind - a way to avoid engaging with some hard truth.

So what motivates men and women who claim to follow Jesus to protect themselves at all costs from owning their part in a conflict? Why would they rather attack and damn others than look in the mirror and take stock of what it reflects?

It certainly comes across as unbridled arrogance, but is there more to the story? Is there also a desperate fear that haunts those who employ such tactics?

If we could see behind the religious hubris, beneath the insolent self-righteousness, would we discover a frightened child, cowering as if from a blow, frantically lashing out at anyone who threatens to uncover their true state?

Or would it look more like the Wizard of Oz, fearfully fabricating his grand illusion of power and authority, whilst behind the curtain stands a man emotionally paralysed by the miserable awareness of his own inadequacy.

Hiding behind the illusion.

I actually don't know. Only God can see the heart. But I do know how it feels to be dismissed with such callous disregard. Like so many others, I have experienced the injustice of having my legitimate grievances expunged with the magic words, "You're just bitter."

When it happened at my ex-church I was devastated by it. I remember the pain and betrayal of trust. But since then I've done the hard yards, and I've learned to thrive in the liminal spaces I was pushed into. (Hence the title of my blog!)

And I've discovered that these days those words leave me feeling genuine pity. Because it seems to me that the person who needs to resort to protecting themselves in this way - shutting down conversation in order avoid even contemplating their own culpability - is not someone who knows the joy and freedom of life in Christ. And that is truly sad.

So do yourself a favour and stop using this dismissive accusation. Really, just stop! You are most likely hurting others by it, and you are quite definitely harming yourself. And who knows, you just might learn that to live with honesty - naked and unashamed - is actually the most liberating experience you'll ever have!


  1. I have been thinking about this post for a few days now. I could not understand why it kept me thinking, until I realised I had been told that I was "bitter" on a number of occasions in the past. Not to do with religious subjects, but in work or relationship situations. Bitter that I didn't get the promotion, the special project, the sought after award. Bitter that I was dumped, couldn't catch the hot guy, had a broken engagement.

    And yes, I have come to realise now that the " bitter" accusation is used when all avenues of real discussion and thoughtful argument have run dry. It is meant as a show stopper. Nothing more to say from me. No one ever comes back after the bitter accusation has been thrown except with a " no I'm not!" But there is a better response - "Is that all you've got?" If I ever hear that phrase again, I will know how to respond. Thank you for this insight. I think,I can cross a few things off my backlist of annoyances now.

    1. I'm really glad to know it helped! That's one of the reasons I share my stuff, so that others experiencing the same rubbish might know they're not the problem and gain some insight into dealing with it.

      I think shutting down real conversation is such a coward's way out... I might have to borrow your response :)