Let me introduce you to Kathryn. I met her on the Young Writer’s Workshop. We share a few things in common: we’re both Christians, we both love writing, we both blog, and we’re both homeschoolers (or a homeschool graduate, in my case).
In addition to all that, we both have big families. I’m the oldest of eleven, and Kathryn is one of ten. And we both know it’s not easy! So often siblings get on each other’s nerves, and the natural response is to harbor bitterness in our hearts.
That’s why Kathryn wrote this guest post for me, “To Mend Our Bitter Hearts.” Read on to hear her advice.
Other guest posts to read: “God Still Works Miracles” & “What Keeping a Houseplant Taught Me About Growth”
To Mend Our Bitter Hearts | A Guest Post by Kathryn Perry
Anger, a Very Real Problem
I’m not here to tell you how bad anger is. Most of us have read the verse where Christ says to be angry is to commit murder in our hearts. And even if you haven’t, you will know the damaging consequences of anger in your own lives. This can especially apply to our family life. Because we live with our family, we are well acquainted with each others’ faults, and those can often anger us. However, I am here to offer an understanding of what our anger looks like from a different perspective, and also how to combat our bitterness, especially in our family lives.
But we have to start from the beginning, with what that everyday problem looks like. We know how one rude word to a sibling can have a domino effect. Or how feeling disrespected can fester to the point where you lash out at a parent. We don’t need much help with remembering those things and that is the problem. Someone who is continually angry and bitter will always remember every instance where someone has angered them, even if it’s only a small thing.
A brother doesn’t care enough to pick up after himself.
A sister is always right, every time.
Mom and Dad are being a little harsh.
Or perhaps the cause is very difficult to pinpoint.
For some reason, you can’t do something your sister can do. Suddenly it is her fault even if it doesn’t make sense.
That younger sibling wants to be just like you but keeps ruining the impression and making you look bad.
Don’t those seem like small things? Eventually, however, they all add up, and you find yourself angry and trapped over things that don’t matter and you don’t know why.
An Objective View
Well, here’s the thing. For all your trying, you can’t change them. That’s something only the Lord can do. You might ask them directly, “Hey, that thing you were doing bothers me. It’s why I got so upset the other day. Is it alright if you try not to do it at least around me?”
Sometimes, that gets great reactions.
“Sure! I’m sorry I hurt you!”
And sometimes it doesn’t.
“Well, it doesn’t matter what you think. You should just suck it up.”
Sometimes people do change their behavior if you explain it is frustrating you, and sometimes they don’t. But why can’t they just change immediately and make your life so much easier?
Because we’re trying to change them, and that is not our job. If someone is truly doing something wrong and hurtful, it is up to the Holy Spirit to bring about the change that they need. Often, they don’t remember all those times when they hurt you because they did not realize it or didn’t think it had a lasting impact. Sometimes they did it on purpose, but again, it is not our job to change them.
The Path to Forgiveness
So if it is hopeless to change those people who have angered you, what can you do? If they don’t change soon, you won’t be able to forgive them, and you’ll be stuck in a cycle of harsh, devouring bitterness.
It all comes back to these verses in the Bible, which have helped me in different aspects of life as well as my anger.
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5, KJV)
The most commonly used meaning of these verses is that we should make sure we are doing right before we point out to someone else that they are doing wrong.
But I think it goes deeper than that. When you think of this person you are angry with and feel your anger boil, what are you looking at? Your problems or theirs? Are you looking at the mote in their eye or the beam of bitterness in your own? But if you have this beam, how can you get it out? Are you even able to do that?
Not by yourself, no. But with the Lord’s help, it is possible to remove that beam. The only way to be rid of the anger is to pursue Him. You may say, “I will ask God to help me stop being angry.” But I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. At least not the way I wanted it to work. Your motivation is fixing your anger, not following God.
When you are pursuing a deep relationship with God, your vision gradually turns away from those around you, to yourself, but not in a bad way. You’ll stop thinking of your anger, and start thinking of what you are doing. No longer are you comparing others to yourself or your standards. Now you are comparing yourself to Christ and realizing just how flawed you are. How can you be angry if you’re just as flawed as everyone else? Don’t you also err just as much as they do? If you’re willing to give yourself a little leeway to do wrong, can’t you afford them the same?
These are all questions I ended up asking myself after I realized my anger and bitterness were getting out of hand. I was too late to nip them in the bud. Forgiveness was a very slow process because I first had to realize that it wasn’t right for me to be feeling the way I was. So, then I tried to change the people that made me feel that way. When that didn’t work, I turned to asking God to take away those hard feelings. But that didn’t seem to work either.
Then I started listening to the Holy Spirit in some small things unrelated to my anger. They were just some convictions about how I was spending my time. But then I began to listen more, and my relationship with God began to deepen. I started deeply thinking about becoming who God was and what that meant for me as His child. It was then that I realized that I was the one who needed to change to be more like Christ. Not all those people who had made me angry. So in a way, God did answer my prayer, just not the way I had expected.
Anger can be a very difficult hurdle to hop, especially in our family lives! And we aren’t able to fix it ourselves, even if we try to fix the person who has angered us. However, God has given us a way to combat our anger. By following Him and truly looking at our actions from an objective view, He can show us where we are wrong and help us to overcome our bitterness.
Psalm 145:18 says, “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.”(KJV)
Seek the Lord and call upon Him, and He is faithful to help you forgive others and conquer your anger. He is the only one with the power to mend, our broken, bitter hearts!
About the Author
Kathryn Perry is a homeschooler and one of ten children. She lives on a farm in Missouri and enjoys helping with the animals, or working in the garden. Her desire is to use her hands to please the Lord. She tries to do this when playing piano, drawing, and especially writing stories. She is practicing her writing skills and learning how to be a published author. Connect with Kathryn at her blog, The Story Cubby.