"No matter what happens, refuse to get bitter." I'll never forget the first time I heard that statement made. It was Matt Keller from Next Level Church in Ft. Myers, Fl. He was hosting and leading my church planter training with ARC. It was a week of intense training to get me ready to lead the church that I believed, at the time, would grow to be one of the largest and most significant churches we had ever seen.
That was February of 2010. My church launched in September of that same year. It never really took off. In fact, I'm in the process of writing a book about my experiences and the lessons learned during that phase of my life. But, by November 2011, I was feeling pretty hopeless about it and by April, 2012 I had resigned. That church went on for a couple more years and then merged with another.
What happened with that church is not the point here. What happened with me is. Just like the thing you're struggling to come to terms with right now is not the point. What you choose to do with all you're feeling about it is. Was my experience with that church painful? You bet it was - the most painful experience of my life, to date. Did I feel feelings of regret, resentment, frustration and anger? Yes - on a daily basis for a number of years. But, if you ask me the question, "Did you get bitter about it?" I can honestly and confidently say, "No, I didn't." You see, anger, frustration and a host of other negative emotions are temporary. Bitterness is a state of being that you must decide to embody - or not.
If you're human, you've had some kind of disappointment and maybe even all out heart-break. Here's what I want you to know today. Although you will feel all kinds of pain related to that disappointment and heartbreak, you decide what to do with all that pain. You can relish it and internalize it, which will make you bitter. Or, you can use it to learn lessons - often very tough lessons about who you are and who you can be. But, whichever path you take is your choice. You may have been the victim of someone else's wrong-doing, but you're not a victim when it comes to how you'll react to it.
I recall the darkest of those years when I would daily say to myself out loud, "I refuse to get bitter." I could hear Matt's voice in my head, "Refuse to get bitter." Today, I hope you hear mine. Refuse to get bitter. That disappointment you're facing will affect your future, but you decide if that affect is positive or negative. Choose wisely.
Refuse. To. Get. Bitter.