Many people regard New Year’s resolutions with the same disdain they attribute to the fruitcake. I am a proponent of both.
For several years now, I have made the same New Year’s resolution, and I ask God to help me to keep it: I will take no bitterness into the new year.
Whatever has happened during the past 12 months that tends to sour my disposition, cause me pain and create separation, I resolve to let go. Whatever offenses I have suffered will not be dragged into the new year.
Forgiveness is not as easy as it might sound. Partly it requires developing a thicker skin and realizing that I take far too many things personally. I need to lighten up.
This is one of the concepts my friend, Monty Knight, discusses in his book “Balanced Living: Don’t Let Your Strengths Become Your Weakness.”
Continuing with Monty’s philosophy, I don’t have to go to every fight to which I am invited. That is a major concept: Let it go.
Tom Newboult, a minister of religious education, once told me that sin is giving more importance to the moment than it is worth. In other words, don’t dwell in the negative. I think Tom hit the nail on the head.
Turning a negative into a positive is another methodology for dealing with difficult situations.
Since I administered a not-for-profit agency for most of my career, I would often be attacked with, “Well, Mitch, you are just an idealist.”
My reply became, “Thank you. I hope so.”
The main thing Christians must remember about forgiveness is that we are able to forgive because we have been forgiven.
Susan Sparks in “Laugh Your Way to Grace” suggests that we rediscover the power of humor. She maintains that we take ourselves far too seriously. We need to repackage some of the comments that cause us pain.
Bitterness is a terrible taskmaster. It will ruin your life and suck all the goodness you receive into a dark hole.
I recommend a proactive approach. Go on an active campaign to make those around you glad that you are there. Build them up by helping them feel good about themselves. Say something nice. Compliment him or her in a genuine way. Call the person by name. Offer a specific compliment about a real accomplishment.
On the other hand, when you receive a compliment, acknowledge it graciously with a simple “thank you.”
In my book, “Christian Civility in an Uncivil World,” I discuss the power of words, but I am by no means the first to come to that conclusion.
The psalmist said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto thee, oh God, my strength and my redeemer.”
Arthur Caliandro gets right to the heart of the matter with a three-word solution. “Life is now.” That statement is stunning in its simplicity. Live in the present. Don’t drag past hurts into today.
I was part of a vivid demonstration of this principle. We were planning one of the annual John Hamrick Lectures while Hamrick was still living. A potential speaker was being considered. I called the speaker to extend an invitation.
He told me that because he and Hamrick had been involved on opposite sides of a controversy, he would only come if Hamrick approved. When I told Hamrick of my conversation, he didn’t hesitate. “That was then. This is now.” Wow.
I make no claim that getting rid of bitterness is an easy task. You and I have experienced great hurts. Unfortunately we have also inflicted great hurts.
I know that I am in the process of becoming and that God is not finished with me. Practicing my resolution of taking no bitterness into the new year has helped me live a more productive, less stressful life.
I believe you will experience the same happy results if you give it a try.
MitchCarnell is a consultant specializing in interpersonal and organizational communication. He is the editor of “Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.” He and his wife are active lay members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C. Mitch blogs at MitchCarnell.com.
A member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, he is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.