Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV).
We built them their own coop and yard with an enclosed fence so they have plenty of room to wander. They are living their best chicken life.
But sometimes, that’s just not enough for them. Our four chickens truly believe they deserve to be “indoor chickens.”
Recently, when we left the door open for a moment, our beautiful but not-so-bright girl, Truffles, literally leaped at the opportunity to run into our kitchen.
Then she had no idea what to do with herself.
You could see the panic in her eyes as she evaded capture and flung herself against the sliding glass door in our kitchen nook. “Get me out of here! I want to be back with my sisters!”
That’s how our minds work sometimes. Thoughts that have no place in our brains—bitterness, anger, and resentment—invade our space and wreck our peace. Then regret.
Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Notice God didn’t say if you’re angry, or if you’re bitter. He simply says to get rid of those emotions when we have them. As part of our design, negative emotions like these alert us that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
Sometimes feeling guilty for having negative emotions keeps us from admitting to ourselves that we do have some room for kindness and compassion, but understanding that they’re part of the way we’re wired as humans helps us better gauge what’s going on in our hearts.
We can’t get rid of something if we don’t acknowledge it’s there. That would be a little like me allowing Truffles to jump up on my dining room table while I’m making stir fry and pretending I don’t see her. Accepting our anger and bitterness is the first step to getting rid of these negative emotions.
Even though they serve an initial purpose, we can’t let them stay. Much like the mess my chickens would make if left unchecked in the kitchen, the damage comes from letting them linger too long. Unaddressed anger leads to hurtful actions like slander and fighting.
Forgiveness looks like evicting the unpleasant and ugly emotions to leave room for what is beautiful and beneficial. I can tell you from experience that the decision to forgive and be kind is not a one-and-done. Like my ever-vigilant chicken blockade, I must remind myself that I decided to let that offense go, even if I don’t want to sometimes. (And out it goes again!)
It’s hard work to get rid of anger and bitterness and slander, but it’s worth the time and energy it takes to have a peaceful and restful place to be who we were designed to be.
After dealing with our negative emotions, it’s a lot easier to treat others with kindness and compassion. Even for those who are harder to love, remembering the many times we’ve been shown kindness enables us to do it. Ultimately, our ability to show compassion and kindness is more a reflection of how dedicated we are to following Jesus than the other person’s merit. And I’ve learned that the grace place is the best space to live in.
Again, it’s about having a lovely and peaceful space in our hearts, rather than allowing an invasion of unwanted and undesirable guests. Just because anger and unforgiveness show up from time to time, doesn’t mean I have to let them nest there. Like Truffles and her feathered sisters, they can live someplace else.
God, help me to let go of my bitterness and anger, and the tendency to want to fight. Help me to forgive when I’ve been wronged, as You’ve forgiven me. Teach me new ways to be kind and how to be compassionate to others.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
When you read the words bitterness, rage, and anger, is there someone who comes to mind? How can you pray for a step towards peace with them today?
Can you think of a time when someone unexpectedly showed you kindness?
What is one way you can show someone kindness or compassion today?
More from the Girlfriends
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