BITTER TO BETTER
MOVING FROM BITTER TO BETTER
by Trevor DeVage
Leaders in any organization, but especially in the church, spend so much time in bitterness management. Life Church pastor Craig Groeschel once said the thing he deals with more than anything else as he tries to grow a great church is lawsuits and negative people. Thankfully, he finds ways not to focus on such problems, because what you focus on is what you fall on.
I’ve decided not to make negatives my focus. I want to concentrate on making people better, not bitter.
And I’ve come to realize that the first way to do this is to work on making myself better instead of bitter. Most of the bitterness in the people I encounter began inside of them. Their own view of themselves and their personal circumstances created the bitterness that then spills out into the situations they enter. I want to be better than that. Concentrating on better always leads me upward. Slipping into bitter leads to a never-ending downward slide. Me being bitter doesn’t make me better, and it surely does nothing for those around me.
I want to make people better by the way I interact with them. One of my models is one of our amazing church members, Darlene Hicks; she always has a smile, she’s always ready to offer an encouraging word. I feel certain she would do anything she could to help me be better.
A wide range of relationships with those all seeking the better improves life for everyone involved. Sunday I quoted C.S. Lewis who wrote, “By myself I’m not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” As we call out the best in each other, each person contributes and elicits something different from the others in their circle. I can make you better in a way perhaps no one else does. Your contribution to my life shines a light that comes uniquely from you.
The circle of affirmation at our elders retreat several days ago is a good example. We asked each man to tell what they perceived as their main gift. “What do you do best? What is your most valuable contribution to others in life?” After each had shared, we asked each man in the circle to build on what they’d heard, to tell the speaker how they agreed with what he said and then to add what they see in him.
It was a profoundly positive experience. I saw emotion most of those guys had never demonstrated before. When life is being spoken into you and the world has been speaking death, the bitter is overwhelmed by the better. It’s an experience each of us needs more often.
There’s always something we can move, some step we can take, some word we can speak, to make our service better. One key is to focus on what God is doing instead of what people are criticizing or complaining about.
This is my goal as I move into the next phase of my life. I just want to make people better. That’s how I’ll make the church better. I’m working to deal with bitterness in my heart toward people who have hurt me. As I said above, it always starts inside, with the heart.
So my focus has shifted from bitterness management to how I can make all the leaders and volunteers and services of the church better. I just try to speak life into every situation. People receive enough death; inside the church they should receive life.
Sometimes folks allow their bitterness to push them from one local church to another. I’ve observed that they usually take their bitterness with them, and before long, it has spilled out there, too.
Jesus said, “Love one another.” We’ve heard that so often we’ve stopped working on what it means. So here’s a new way to think about it. Move from bitter to better. Work to show those around you better, not bitter. Give yourself to contributing to a church that’s better, not bitter.
It’s the very best way to live.