Forgiveness, Bitterness, and Balloons
Forgiveness is a funny thing.
It seems so simple at first. Someone does something wrong, they apologize, and you forgive them.
Only what if they don’t apologize?
Or what if they do, but you still can’t seem to get over it?
The hurt just follows you around.
It seems like a little thing, not a heavy burden to carry. Sort of like a balloon. Tied on to your wrist, you feel it’s tug, but it’s no bother. You just go on your way, pulling that balloon behind you.
Maybe you’ve got a few balloons.
Then one day, you go swimming.
Try as you might, you just can’t keep those balloons under water with you. You can’t get through the water without them trying to strangle you. You shove those balloons down as deep under the water as you can, but the balloons just keep popping up!
Maybe it was something that person said, or maybe it was something someone else did, just a little thing. And it triggered that old hurt.
A few years ago, I thought I had forgiven my sister for some things she said or did when we were children. We were kids, for goodness sake! And it wasn’t a huge deal, just the normal big sister irritated with little sister stuff. She didn’t mean to hurt me deeply, and she doesn’t do those things now. It’s in the past. I’m over it. I’ve forgiven her.
But one day, my oldest daughter was rude to me, and I erupted. I completely went off. I was shocked at my response.
What in the world made me so angry with her?
Then I realized, she had acted the way my sister did when we were younger. Obviously, I was holding on to balloons from the past.
We’d never call it bitterness. That would be sin.
It was bitterness.
See, bitterness doesn’t look like what we think it does. It’s not a grumpy old woman with her lower jaw sticking out and a furrowed brow. It’s not a cocked head and a sideways glance. It’s not a cold shoulder.
Bitterness is a lingering pain, undealt with. It isn’t hurting the other person at all.
Most of the time it’s not hurting you at all. Just a balloon that you carry around.
Then one day you go swimming.
Praise God for the day you go swimming! On that day your bitterness is revealed to you, and you have the opportunity to deal with it.
There’s only one way to deal with those balloons that keep popping up. (sing with me now, Elsa)
Let it go!
I know it sounds trite and overly simple, but there’s really no other way around it. You have to dig deep and pry that root of bitterness from its comfortable home.
God can help you with this. It may be a small injustice you’ve buried, like mine, or it may be a large festering wound that you’ve salved over for years hoping it would heal. Only you and God know the best way to work it out. Lay your burden at his feet. He can handle it.
When you finally let go of that balloon, you’ll watch it fly higher and higher into the sky. What once seemed like only a light burden now looks like even less, only a speck in the sky! Pretty soon you won’t see it at all.
Then one day, maybe it’s something someone said or something someone else did, you’ll come across that old balloon again.
It won’t seem like much now.
Empty, powerless, deflated.
Just a lonely, old, deflated balloon with no pull at all.
And you’ll wonder why you ever carried it around at all.
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