This morning, in preparation for a day of writing (my favorite kind of day!), I [Ginny] stopped at the place that inspires my creative juices the most - Starbucks (I have a horrible addiction, and I admit it completely) and asked for a grande Pikes Place. I love the medium-flavored coffee. It has the perfect amount of bitter, but not too much. It just stimulates my creative juices and brings joy to my soul.
“We are out of Pikes Place.”
I looked incredulously at the barista: “What? How could you be OUT of Pike’s Place???”
The poor barista looked at me with a slight hint of fear because there was a slightly crazy look in my eyes. At this point, I have to keep myself from jumping over the counter and making a new batch of coffee myself. I had to remind myself that doing so would be the act of a spoiled brat and that I should be grateful that I can buy these ridiculously overpriced cups of coffee in the first place. Yes, all that thinking goes through my brain in the span of one second. Thankfully, I managed to take a breath and ask for the strong coffee instead. Sorry ladies, the blonde coffee doesn’t do it for me. I’m a brunette not only in hair color but in coffee preferences!
I prepared myself for the first sip, knowing full well it would be bitter, and it didn’t fail to meet my expectations. The bitterness did wake me up quickly though, and here I am, writing about my ridiculous trip to Starbucks for your pleasure.
Bitter coffee is not the end of the world, but bitterness in life can be the end of many things.
Natalie Snapp says it perfectly in her book Heart Sisters:
“Bitterness can do a large amount of damage in a small amount of time. It creeps in before we realize it has gained entry and perches in our thoughts until we spew it out in a fury of ugliness that reveals to the world what’s in our hearts.”
If you have ever been on the receiving end of the fury of bitterness, you know how damaging it can be. Even though forgiveness happened long ago, I still feel the pain of the words spewed at me years ago when someone I loved and trusted let her bitterness take hold. Words do damage, and hers certainly did.
Yet, if I am honest with myself, I have been bitter as well. I still remember my rooming situation my freshman year of college. I didn’t meet my roommate until the very moment we both moved in, but I realized quickly after we met that she was the roommate I had feared most. She was one step above everything I had been in high school. We were in some of the same musicals, but she was the lead when I was a minor lead. We both sang, but her voice was light years better than mine. I had lost weight and was feeling more confident in my looks, but she was one the most beautiful girls on campus (I am NOT exaggerating!).
Instead of allowing myself to see her for what she truly was and taking the opportunity to grow in a friendship with her, I let my bitterness take hold, and I spent that year despising her. I was easily frustrated with her, thought nasty thoughts when all the boys came to visit our room for her and not me, and we fought so badly that our RA had to get involved. As a result, we both wanted to be as far away from each other as possible the following year. All because I let bitterness take hold. How I wish I could go back and relive that year with the wisdom and maturity I have now.
While we can’t control the bitterness of others, we CAN control the bitterness in us. We can do this by recognizing the signs of it creeping in:
Negativity: When you think about a certain person, do you focus on the negative instead of the positive? Do you feel resentment about their accomplishments instead of joy?
Comparison: Do you constantly compare your life to someone else’s and find yourself on what you think is the losing end? Do you read their Facebook posts and narrow your eyes every time you see her post a picture of her lovely children doing yet another art project? Do you look at their home décor and cringe at the thought of yours? Do you sit at a meal a friend prepared and think you could never invite her to your home because your meals would never add up to hers?
What an unfair thing to do to the other person! No matter how close you are with someone, you cannot possibly know everything that is going on in her life. That perfect picture she posted of her kids art project may have followed a tearful and frustrating 10 minutes of chaos after she finally attempted to connect with her kids after feeling like she ignored them all day. That home décor? Thank goodness someone in the world has an eye for that. Rejoice in her talent! Instead of comparing hers to yours, take this as a chance to connect and ask her to help you decorate a room in your home. When she cooks a meal for you, take some time to appreciate it internally and outwardly. God has given her a gift, and instead of spending the meal thinking less of yourself, spend it thinking more of her and enjoy the good food before returning to yours!
Withdrawal: Do you find yourself spending less time with a friend because her life seems to be perfect while yours is a mess? You might be surprised at what your friend might actually be going through if you take the time to go beyond the surface with her. And if her life is going well, rejoice with her because trials and struggles do happen, and a friendship you build now during the good times could help strengthen her during those challenges.
Rejoicing in the Struggles of Others: Did you find out your friend is struggling in an area, and the first thing that came to mind is, “Thank goodness! Finally, she gets a taste of reality!” Friends, that is DANGEROUS thinking. Rejoicing in the struggles of others will do nothing for you or them. You lose your sense of compassion and empathy, and that is hard to hide. When your friend needs ALL OF YOU the most, a part of you won’t be there for her because you are inwardly feeling better that she finally gets a taste of what you are going through.
If bitterness has taken ahold of you, it is not too late to do something about it.
Pray: Bitterness is a heart issue. God has the power to work on that if you let Him. Pray for your friend and ask God to show you how to be a better friend to her. Thank Him for as many of the incredible things about her that you can. Ask Him to work on your heart to help you see her inner beauty so that you can see past all the things that have kept you from rejoicing in it before.
Reach Out: It is hard to be bitter when you take the time to reach out to a friend. Surprise her with a card in the mail that tells her why you love having her as a friend, encourage her through her struggles with verses, or surprise her with flowers you picked on her doorstep. Ask her if she needs help with anything and follow through on that offer. Give her a call today and ask her if you can go out and have a girl’s night with her.
Mind Your Thinking: While you are out or talking with a friend, actively keep a tab on your thoughts. When you find bitter thinking settling in, say a quiet prayer for God to place positive thoughts about her in your heart instead. Work hard to focus on those.
Sisters, take an inventory of your relationships today. If bitterness is apparent in any of them, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to do something about it. Will you begin that process today?