Bitterness or Righteous Anger – How to tell the difference

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;  (Hebrews 12:15  ESV)

In numbers of other posts on this blog we have addressed the issue of forgiveness, exposing at least the most common distortions of this subject that plague and burden God’s people. We know that forgiveness entails resolution to not seek personal vengeance, nor to hate one’s enemy. Forgiveness does not, in its fundamental essence, include reconciliation. Nor does it require that we cannot hold wrongdoers to consequences of their sin. But with all of that said, how can we know if our forgiveness is real? Is it possible that we can be harboring bitterness disguised by a façade of “righteous anger”? The answer is, yes we can. So how can we discern a spirit of bitterness from righteous anger?

Let me suggest to you the following test:

If my anger is directed against the Lord, then it is not righteous anger. It is bitterness. Where bitterness exists, you can be sure that it is directed ultimately against the Lord, not just against those who have wronged us.

Consider the Old Testament passage that, no doubt, lies behind Hebrews 12:15 —

(Deuteronomy 29:18-19  ESV)  Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.

Bitterness against the Lord always cools our devotion to Him. It is accompanied by a turning away from the Lord, and ultimately tempts us to go and serve false gods. Beware. This is the real danger of the root of bitterness. Like any root, it doesn’t just stay below ground. It sprouts and bears fruit, and that fruit is not good.

We must be ruthlessly honest with ourselves in applying this examination. You have been abused by evil people. What has been done to you is horrible. Justice requires that vengeance be taken upon the wicked as long as they refuse Christ. It is not sin to pray for vindication and justice to be done. But, let us beware. If our anger is turned against the Lord, then we have crossed into unrighteousness ourselves and are on a dangerous path.

[June 28, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to June 28, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to june 28, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 28, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 28, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

25 thoughts on “Bitterness or Righteous Anger – How to tell the difference”

  1. Amen….I too have been through that struggle of wondering if what I wish for is vindication or revenge. Vindication comes from the Lord and LEADS to Him. Revenge comes from our own hearts and wants only to cast our pain upon the abuser, with no positive outcome for them. The Lord has blessed me by letting me see my vindication, which gave me strength, but my prayers remain that he will open his eyes, heart and life to God, before it is too late. It may actually be happening and my heart is happy to see it!!!

    1. Bitterness comes in complaining in our lot in life. It does not consist in being angry with those who do not fear God or obey Him. Jesus got angry with their stubbornness and refusal to desire to do His will. Bitterness is caused because someone blocked OUR will.

  2. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


    If my anger is directed against the Lord, then it is not righteous anger. It is bitterness. Where bitterness exists, you can be sure that it is directed ultimately against the Lord, not just against those who have wronged us.

    With these words, Jeff, you’ve exposed a subterranean confusion I’ve had for a long time. I was never sure how to tell the difference between bitterness and righteous anger. I believed, and still believe, that I am not bitter, but so many Christians have cautioned me about bitterness that I’ve often gone into contortions inspecting my conscience — “Am I harbouring bitterness?”

    When I’ve told Christians about a trouble I’ve been having (any incident of abuse or its aftermath) many Christians have responded: “I suppose you’re finding it hard to understand why God would let this happen.” Upon receiving these comments, I’ve always been dumbfounded, because to the best of my knowledge I’ve never asked “Why me, God!” I’ve never blamed God for my troubles since becoming a Christian. Sure, I’ve had heaps of anger towards the abusers, but not anger directed at God.

    So now I realise that perhaps when folk get stuck on “Why ME, God!” they are being bitter at God. And those folk who attempted to commiserate with me by saying “Are you asking Why me, God?” are people who themselves struggle with bitterness towards God. I think I’m beginning to understand….and can let myself stop those contorted inspections of my conscience. Does anyone else relate to this? Do I sound like someone who is puffed up with delusions of her own virtue?

    1. Barbara – I believe, as I have thought about this during the past week, that if you can honestly say that you are continuing to grow in Christ, your prayers are genuine, you still hunger for His Word, and are in communion with Him, then you are not harboring bitterness because, as I say, bitterness is always ultimately directed against the Lord. It may parade as anger against a perpetrator, but if it is bitterness then an honest evaluation will reveal that it is the Lord the bitter person has an issue with. And, of course, we always, always lose when we accuse the Lord of injustice. I think that the majority of abuse victims I have heard from are really struggling with the accusations from others that they are unrighteously angry / or bitter, when in fact they are righteously angry with the offender, but doing just fine in their walk with the Lord. And as we know, these victims have plenty to tempt them to be bitter about, especially in regard to the treatment they often receive from their churches.

      I am glad this helps. I know it helps me in examining myself and in being able to reject false and misleading statements from “helpful” people who lay false guilt on me.

    2. Firstly, Pastor Crippen, what a wonderful post. Very precise and to the point.

      Barb, I know exactly what you mean. I am beginning to think that comments people make are often a projection. Not that I never project. In many ways, projection is normal because our experience is what we are most familiar with. I am guessing, though, that empathetic people wouldn’t project as much because they are used to considering other people’s experiences so they wouldn’t necessarily be fixated on just their own. But often people project, and those who do are often those who like to define other people, and since defining is a form of abuse (says Patricia Evans in “Verbal Abuse”), we feel the effects after they have “dumped” their projection on us.

      I can’t tell you how many times I have had the same finger-wagging warning of not being unforgiving [forgiving?] (=bitter, I guess?). Any sign of anger is taken as unholy or unhealthy resentment. And I am not talking about the abusive ex, for whom this is a given, I am talking about FRIENDS, even DV-sympathetic ones. (Oops, I raised my voice, and I am anticipating a finger-wag for hanging on to resentment!)

      I, too, didn’t find myself asking “Why me, God?”, not even when loved ones died. I thought I was blessed to even have had the loved ones in my life. Similarly with the relationship breakdown. Yes, I have been disappointed with the lack of understanding and support among friends, but I honestly can say I haven’t been bitter toward God. I guess only God knows that and He will reveal it if that is the case. We can’t hide anything from Him.

  3. I find myself guilty of bitterness. Then I think of how everything unfolded and it began with my own sin that I became involved with my abuser. I have said, on quite a few occasions that I hate him. I thought I was a Christian, but 1 John says if a person hates they don’t belong to God. I asked God to change me, but these thoughts are still there.

    1. 7stelle, have you read the ‘Further reading’ posts at the bottom of this post? If so, and if you are still struggling as you described above, please comment again and I’ll try to offer something that may help you. But I don’t want to repeat stuff that is in those other posts. Hope you understand.

      1. Ok, I have read and then re-read them.

        My struggle comes with the mix of I should never have been s-xually involved with him before marriage and at the same time the fact that he abused me. At one point before marriage, before engagement I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore. Because I was trying to hide my sin I lost the confidence to walk away. That choice led to getting engaged, tried to break up then too and I didn’t bring my guilt to God. My husband has said he could tell I never loved him and he is right. I loved him because I thought I needed him (fear of the future, of living alone. I had very little everyday skills too which led to a lack of confidence.). I guess he felt justified to a point in his anger and abuse and I can’t blame him. I was allowing the abuse to punish me instead of confessing every wrong decision I made and saying to God, “what do I do?” Every time I have failed to trust God, because I feared what He would ask of me.

        I have lashed out about the abuse by yelling, slamming doors, and being downright mean to my husband. I went “no contact” in our home, I really haven’t been waiting for him to have a chance to change, it has been both punitive and to self-protect. I missed my single life a few months before the wedding. I really didn’t want to leave my job and mostly my family. Once I was married I went through all the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it. So who really is the horrible person? Both of us.

        [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      2. 7stelle – let’s assume your conclusion is accurate:

        who really is the horrible person? Both of us.

        For myself, what you are saying here about your struggles and guilt does not reflect an arrogant, unrepentant, sinner in total rebellion against the Lord. What I hear is a person struggling with conviction of sin and a heart struggling with the nature of the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ — that is, “how can God ever forgive and accept me, the sinner?” But who loves us more than Jesus Christ? If we confess our sins…. Are you confessing your sins? Yes! What person or creature in this entire universe loves us more than the Son of God who gave Himself for us even while we were dead in our sins, rebels against Him and haters of Him? What being in creation could God have given us whose power to atone for our sins would have been greater than our Redeemer, Jesus Christ? What priest is to be found in all the world who has more ability to mediate between God and us than the One who is at the right hand of God at this very moment and who has entered into the holiest place in all creation to present Himself as the final sacrifice for our sins? There is no such priest other than Him.

        Your sin may well be great. You may be absolutely guilty of everything that you are speaking of here, and more. But do you see that all this does is qualify you as one for whom Jesus Christ came into this world to save? That the grace of God in Christ really is greater than ALL our sin?

        Therefore, you see, it appears to me that your real struggle is against the lies that the devil is piling onto you, infecting your mind with. The mere fact that you speak of your sin openly and that you hate things that you have done evidences the fact that you are not unredeemable due to spurning Christ. Here then is your prayer:

        But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14 ESV) [Emphasis added.]

      3. Dear 7stelle, I lived a life of great promiscuity before ending up with my first husband. And that included sex with him (and becoming pregnant to him) before we married. At that time in my life I did not call myself a Christian; although I’d been born again I’d got sidetracked into a New Age counterfeit of Christianity very soon after being born again….long story….and I didn’t know it was wrong for Christians to marry unbelievers. And in the life I’d lived for years before being born again, it was perfectly normal in the circles I moved in to have sex outside marriage. (I just wanted to open this with a bit of my background so you don’t feel so alone.)

        It sounds to me from what you’ve said that you had a Christian upbringing so you knew that it was wrong to have sex outside marriage, so (unlike me) you felt guilty for having been sexually involved prior to marriage. Quite a few of our readers here have had a similar journey to you; especially in our posts on sexual abuse you’ll find quite a few comments from women who married their boyfriends to try to make right the fact that they’d had sex with them. Some of those women recounted how they felt guilty for the fornication, and at the same time they wanted to leave the relationship because of the coercive control of their boyfriend, but they also felt (or were told by others) that they ought to stay with him to convert the sinful relationship into a ‘right relationship’ (marriage).

        I can easily imagine how you would have faltered in your resolve to walk away from the engagement because you wanted to hide your sin of fornication. Would it help you to reflect now on any of these things:

        If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

        —To what extent did your boyfriend coerce you into the fornication? To what measure were you victimized by him to pressure you into that sin? (I’m not trying to necessarily absolve you of all the responsibility there, but I am suggesting that perhaps if he was coercing you there, you may have been laying an unfairly heavy weight of guilt on yourself for the sex-before-marriage. It may help to remember that in the realm of sexuality, consent is the “Yes” you say when you are free to say “No”. If a person is not 100% free to say “No”, then they are being coerced into sex, so they did not wholly consent to it.

        —If after all this reflection you still deem yourself to have been guilty for the fornication, all you can do is confess it (which I’m sure you have already, since you’re clearly so plagued by the sense of your guilt) and trust that it IS forgiven….and then strive to forgive yourself for having married him, stayed with him, complied with his abuse, etc….but as you know, at this blog we strongly urge survivors to recognise and honour the ways they resisted the abuse. And you’ve said yourself that at one time you sought to break the engagement….and I bet there have been many many other ways you resisted his abuse over the years, including getting angry and lashing out to show how discontented you were about being abused.

        Remember, anger and expressions of anger are not always abusive behaviours. Abuse is a pattern of coercive control to exercise unjust and ungodly power over another person. The behaviour of the abuser is like the predator to its prey; the responses of the victim are like the response of the preyed upon creature responding to its predator. Which one fits you? I am guessing that your anger and lashing out were like the responses of a preyed-upon animal. And do you have a mindset of entitlement and superiority over your partner? I’m guessing you don’t, but he does have that mindset towards you.

        So while some of your behaviour (slamming doors, being mean, yelling) may not have been very polite or godly, and it is okay to confess it to God as wrong, and ask His forgiveness, that doesn’t mean you were the abuser….unless you had that entitled mindset and determination to maintain power and control, which I don’t think you had or have. (If you did, you’d never be in such agonies of conscience as you are!)

        I really haven’t been waiting for him to have a chance to change, it has been both punitive and to self-protect.

        You got that right about the self-protective part. Maybe you had some punitive things going there too, but were they motivated by power and control, or by the naturally just motive of wanting to deliver consequences for the maltreatment he was dishing out to you? Of course, in hindsight you might say that your attempts to deliver consequences were rather ham-fisted, unskilled, unwise….but you didn’t have a lot of life skills in the first place, eh? So you might have been doing kind of the best you could, under the circumstance, working with what you had.

        As for ‘waiting for him to have a chance to change’ — I suggest you de-couple your actions from his choices. He was and is FREE to choose to change whenever he wishes. The point is, he is choosing NOT to change. I don’t think you can influence or cause him to change by ‘waiting’ and ‘giving him a chance’. The chance is his already, whether or not you ‘wait’ for him. In fact, the almost universal reports from survivors (AND from the few abusers who do truly get on the path of genuine change) are that the abuser usually doesn’t even get CLOSE to contemplating real change until his victim leaves or draws some BIG BIG boundaries and sticks to them and often the courts and probation officers need to bring pressure to bear on the abuser before he gets to that stage of contemplating real change…. So don’t lay the burden on yourself that maybe you should have waited longer….or weren’t fair to him.

        Your heart wasn’t in the marriage from the beginning because he was controlling and abusing you pretty much from the get go. (How can a person put their heart into a marriage where they are treated unjustly?) But your heart not being in the marriage doesn’t make you “a horrible person”. In the full context — his pattern of maintaining power and control over you — you were not a ‘horrible person’, you were a frightened and prey-upon person — and a person who WISELY held back your heart because your husband was trying to stab and shred it!

        Just like your abuser is free to change at any time if he wishes to do so, so are you. You may have made some less-than-wise choices, some fear-based choices in the past, and you can’t go back and change the past, but you can choose to make choices for your future now. 🙂 That is true for all of us, isn’t it? Like the serenity prayer says —

        God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
        courage to change the things I can,
        and the wisdom to know the difference.

        BTW, one of the reasons I was fearful of leaving my first husband was I that was worried I would fall back into bulimia, which I’d had all through my teens. I did have lapses into it afer I left him, but I have never fallen so deeply back into it that it dominated my life like it did in before I met him.

      4. Pastor Crippen,

        When I search my heart I find myself with two sorrows; how my life has unfolded and not wanting those who thought I was a Christian all this time to find out I am not (which I think is worldly sorrow) and on the other hand knowing what my children have been through is very bad.

        It’s like I know when I wrote the words ‘we are both horrible’ my head knows it, but my heart is still hiding from it. I still feel resistant to what it is to surrender to God. I can’t make myself go from worldly sorrow to Godly sorrow. My mind is back where all this started. If I could I would go back to my home state, start over again, and pretend it never happened, I would. There never was a melding of our hearts before or in marriage. I left my former life for something no one would want to attach themselves to.

        I had been in another relationship before I met my now-husband. It too became s-xual and we became engaged. It took me 3 agonizing years to get out of it. I thought I was a Christian then and turned back what I thought was to God. I was so grateful for returned health and restored relationships. And then discontentment and fear crept in. This is when I took matters into my own hands and starting looking for someone to love me. Enter now-husband.

        In both these relationships there was an unrealized (at that time) spirit of rejection full blast below the surface. The rejection being, a man I truly loved, a true man of God, who rightfully married a woman God had chosen for him. It crushed me to dust that he was no longer in my life, no more might he be my husband. But I never spoke of it to anyone and hid that too. I didn’t realize till now, that I was really angry with God for what in my mind I called “taking him away.” Why didn’t I just believe God would bring someone just as good, maybe even better?!

        All this time I’ve been trying to scratch and claw my way back to my life before all these sinful relationships. To be the “good” girl again. To not have to take responsibility for the mess I made of my own life and the hurt and damage I brought into my children’s lives and my husband.

        I have never been able to say these things to my husband, because I feared he would turn it into a justification for abusing me.

        He is just a breath away from divorcing me; legally and financially all is in place for total success for him. He just has to call the lawyer and say “now”.

        I don’t want to ask him to stop, because I do fear he will continue the abuse, maybe not now, could be month, years from now, but a think it will happen sometime. The other is my pride. I wonder if I swallow it, then maybe things will change? Well maybe I shouldn’t say it to my husband, but certainly to God.

        I will be left with the consequences of bad health, poverty, and loneliness. I am right back where all the turmoil began — fearful. These are all the things I was fearful of before I married!

      5. Press on and put your trust in the Lord. I know that sounds trite, but it is profoundly true. You are in a real battle within. I highly suspect that a big part of it comes from the abuse your spouse puts upon you and keeps you confused by. You may well find it remarkable how fresh the air smells and how quickly you begin to heal once you are out of the daily car wreck we call abuse. You simply cannot heal from the trauma while being re-traumatized every day.

        And that good girl in your history? Well, the fact is that none of us were really good. Perhaps it would be better to look forward to the new creation that Christ can make you in the future?

        By the way, any thoughts that may be coming your way about you perhaps having committed the unpardonable sin? Let me assure you that people who are thinking the thoughts you are thinking, as you have expressed here, have not committed that sin.

      6. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


        Dear 7stelle,
        I hope this doesn’t sound trite, but I am praying for you.

        I think Ps Jeff’s remark is spot on:

        Press on and put your trust in the Lord. You are in a real battle within.

        It also seems to me that you have masses of grief to process. On top of all the self-examination, self-recrimination, fear, regrets, being stuck, etc., you have grief. Grief for lots of different things.

        I don’t know if this will help you, but it is not sinful to feel grief. Grief just IS — and the only way through it is to feel it….

        It also sounds like you have legacies of shonky theology from the various churches you have been in. It often takes quite a while for our minds to be renewed — cleansed from false teaching, false doctrines that we took on, or had pushed onto us, from sub-biblical teachers.

        And having a father like yours would have conditioned you into a state of continual fearful vigilance.

        When we are feeling a lot of fear, it is harder to learn. Be gentle on yourself if you can.

        I don’t know if any of those things will help you. Toss them to the bin if they don’t. 🙂

        (hugs) from Barb.

  4. 7stelle,

    Stbx and I hadn’t had sex for more than a year. I carried a lot of guilt because I am the one who withheld it from him, but at the same time, I found it hard to allow this man to touch me after the abuse toward me (he still does claim there was no abuse). I did not feel safe with him, I actually did not feel I loved him either, I did in the beginning of our relationship, but the loving feeling toward him had changed, and this was because of the abuse.

    I, too, slammed the door several times, he claims I threw objects (which I did not). I have raised my voice at him but he would chide “don’t you raise your voice at me!”. It was okay for him to scream at me, but it was not okay for me to do that same to him. Eventually, I shut down. Once again, I felt guilty. I couldn’t communicate with him. I learned early in our marriage that I needed to be very careful what I said to him because he had a nasty habit of throwing it back in my face and quite often. I did not trust him with my words or my feelings.

    As for waiting for him to change. I think we all give our abusers many opportunities to right the wrong toward us, I suppose that would be ‘waiting for them to change?’ or at least hoping they finally see the light….I think the difference between him and I is that, I carried guilt for most of our marriage because of my behavior toward him. I even went to counseling to FIX me because I was the problem, but him? He acted as if the abuse was nothing. He used to tell me that he was ‘walking on eggshells’, it could be true, but I think it was, in my own personal opinion, he was walking on eggshells because he knew he was going to lash out again and it was only a matter of time! But, that’s only my opinion. I’d like to mention to that my stbx has a DV HISTORY (let’s say at least five other incidences) that I was unaware of (no, I didn’t do my homework!) 😦

    I have cried many nights asking God to forgive me for my part in the relationship, and also asking him to heal my broken heart. At times, I still feel guilty, but I keep trusting in the Lord to comfort me and His Holy Spirit to help me throughout my healing process.

    I do not remember how I came across ACFJ website. I was in a VERY emotional frame of mind at the time, but I am so grateful to be able to come here and read and read and read some more….

    [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    1. Round*Two,
      So much of what you wrote is like my life with my husband. My total shut-down came not from the years of crazy-making, but from when I saw him mistreat a family member. It tore me up so bad I went “no contact” of all kinds in my home. He is furious over no s-x, but not over what he did to me or the family member.

    2. Dear Round*Two and A Prodigal Daughter Returns, I am so grateful for your responses here. We are truly all in this together, and this is what the body of Christ is all about: sharing, supporting, caring for each other, not buffaloing each other but listening to each other with compassion and sharing from our hearts.

      A smiley-face doesn’t seem right here, so please imagine an icon of hands raised in thankful prayer to God.

  5. Barbara,

    First I want to thank you for sharing some of your life with me. And because you didn’t have to it is very compassionate.

    To what extent did your boyfriend coerce you into the fornication?

    —That is FULLY my fault.
    He did start out taking me to remote spots all the time, constantly kissing me in a semi-violent way. Then in my car with inappropriate touching. I did it and hated it all at the same time. Then this happened in my parents’ home: he had gone on vacation and he stopped by on his way home. We went into a bedroom. But it was ME that said “let’s go on the bed”. He even said we shouldn’t. We didn’t remove clothing, but it was still fornication. Afterward instead of apologizing to him, I became angry with him and myself. He asked if we could just be friends, but, because I defrauded him I allowed the relationship to go on to hide my guilt.

    the responses of the victim are like the response of the preyed upon creature responding to its predator. Which one fits you?

    —Yes, this is me.

    And do you have a mindset of entitlement and superiority over your partner?

    —No. For me it was like trying to make the marriage be right in all the places it wasn’t in my parents’. My daddy controlled EVERYTHING; I wanted it to be where I was treated equally, but not above him.

    Maybe you had some punitive things going there too, but were they motivated by power and control, or by the naturally just motive of wanting to deliver consequences for the maltreatment he was dishing out to you?

    —More like revenge. There was no love in it. I wasn’t hoping it would make him see the light. I wanted him to feel some pain.

    I am stuck, right back there in time, where my sin and his led to an unholy marriage.

    1. Forgot….I was raised Catholic. A girlfriend invited me to a Bible Camp meeting. I never was sure if I got saved then; that’s where I met that godly man; I’m afraid it became about him. Since my daddy controlled the home with fear and entitlement I became very protective of my mama. She was so kindhearted and gentle. She tried to protect us kids from his anger (although with daddy there was no physical abuse — more demanding tones, threatening looks, and a ton of rules). Mama barely gave us responsibility (I think she was trying to make up for the fearful tone of our home); some of us became unhealthily dependent on her and she with us.

      I also was exposed to a very legalistic ministry after the Bible Camp. Walking in the Spirit, I had no idea what that is until I started reading the Bible again last year. I just thought you ask Jesus in your heart and you’re good. The sin is covered and you just go out and serve Him. I actually didn’t know about sin residing in the flesh.

      1. Thank you, Barbara.

        Something that really affected me was the teaching that having sinned sexually automatically disqualified me from marrying someone who had remained pure. (I know Michael Pearl teaches this although I learned that about him only a year ago.) Somewhere I picked up that mindset of ongoing shame. God forgives and says “sin no more”. I find the “sin no more” a comfort, a protection from Jesus not a wagging finger that men wield who want to keep you under cloud of condemnation. I do not subscribe to the thought that “Jesus died on the cross so sin and it’s no big deal.” But this teaching that you’re somehow less than everyone else, because of a certain sin I think will only perpetuate that sin.

      2. Your thinking seems spot on here, 7stelle, and well-balanced.

        You do not subscribe to libertinism, which is the idea that Jesus has paid the price for sin, so if you sin it’s no big deal — Jesus has already paid for it!.

        Nor do you subscribe to legalism or works-righteousness, which mouths the rhetoric that ‘Jesus cleanses the repentant sinner’ but which in practice upholds man-made traditions and scruples about what is and is not forgivable, what is and is not godly.

        It is nonsense to assert that if a person has sinned sexually, they are automatically disqualified from marrying someone who has remained pure. There is no teaching in Scripture which supports it.

  6. It’s been years since this conversation ended, which I found because I was meant to at a time it is helpful for me to hear. I relate to 7stelle’s story and pain and in it see similarities to my own. And I wonder about one so willing to accept guilt and shame as a sort of penance. This is a trait I recognize in myself, a willingness to repent not only for my own guilt but that of others. In my case I was pre-conditioned well before meeting my abuser to be THE guilty one in a room of guilty ones.

    Before I ever met my abuser I was the family “sin eater”. That phrase is based off a book about a community member assigned to carry the blame, shame, and sin of the entire community. There really was only one who could do that, the perfect Lamb of God.

    But in my zeal to be loved by God, thinking that it must always be earned (family of origin thing) I found excessive devotion to spotlessness, an attempt to earn love that cannot be earned or it would not be grace.

    So I thought myself “good” at one time, but post-divorce from an abuser ran to another one, a relationship that crossed moral boundaries the “good” girl never crossed. The shame was torturous and I too married the next abuser to make myself acceptable and good again. Instead I took a place in hell.

    And of course abusers in life loved my willingness to carry their shame. It was always “Look what you made me do”. I found churches that reinforced this, abuse was an “unsubmitted wife” problem always. The gymnastics I’d do to fix it when it was unfixable and the abuser wanted it that. Excessive guilt is a sign of a lack of ability to receive grace and accept unconditional love, since all love has been conditional on being good enough. This is not a cause for shame, this is a cause for mercy and compassion.

    I had a terrible rare health disaster fall on me, 3 times, 3 different parts of my body. My first thought was “I’m paying for sin”. A wise friend told me “since the cross, the only thing Jesus has in mind for you, 24 / 7, is mercy”. Somewhere in this Jesus has mercy for you that is all He wants to give you.

    And so to those who’ve carried the sins of others, beaten themselves to a pulp in self-flagellation trying to earn God’s love…. Stop. (I speak to myself here too.) Guilt has been atoned for, do not minimize the power of grace because God says of Himself, He throws the transgressions into the deepest part of the sea, to be remembered no more.

    [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

  7. It also seems to me that you have masses of grief to process. On top of all the self-examination, self-recrimination, fear, regrets, being stuck, etc., you have grief. Grief for lots of different things.

    You nailed it, Barbara!

    I’m grieving 20+ years of a non-marriage, loss of 7+ years of my children’s lives due to the high dose of drug given to control panic attacks and blackouts — a 2nd doctor who helped me as I came off the drug said my brain had been in a coma — -my children said “you were here Mommy, but you weren’t here” 😂😂😂😂, loss of my health; years spent living away from extended family, the recent death of a parent, all the “if onlys”, children now leaving the nest, a future of tons of debt he is making sure to saddle me with, and the slim chance of getting employment at my older age. Some days it is unbearable.

  8. In hindsight, I realize two things:

    First, the anger I felt towards my abusers was righteous.

    Second, the bitterness was the “not me” voices in my head.

    In addressing the source(s) of the “not me” voices in my head, the bitterness has reduced.

    I am not angry at God, but I cannot say the same for my abusers.

    In hindsight, I am reconsidering part of what I have called my “cycle of healing”.

    The vituperative streams of language aimed at “god-the-abuser” emanated from the “not me” voices toward God, not me toward God.

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