I remember my days as a little boy, with nostalgia, walking on the footpaths of my village, usually with my mother. Every child is full of curiosity and wonder, and so my focus would be stolen by things like a bird’s nests way up on the trees. You see, I needed to remember their locations so that I’d later come looking for bird eggs with one or two of my friends. Thinking of all the birds whose families we messed up makes me remorseful now.
Often some, tantalizingly ripe wild fruits that were entirely out of reach would catch my attention. I would stare at them, trying to come up with a strategy to reach them. To climb the tree? No. It is too thorny. Rope? It wouldn’t work; the fruits are too far into the bush. A hooked branch? No, the fruits are way too high, etc.
I would still be walking when all these calculations went on in my mind, and I’d forget to focus on the path. The result would be me hitting my unshod big toe on a rock. The next thing after hitting my toe would be to limp-run at breakneck speed because I knew mum was coming for me. She would come to pinch my cheek to remind me that it is my job to focus on the path and avoid obstacles.
This story from my childhood comes to mind when I think about offense. Offense, the source of bitterness, plays out like the above scenario. Life is a footpath, and if we carefully paid attention to our paths, we’d be able to walk around many obstacles, thus avoiding emotional injuries.
I am not saying that every emotional injury is the victim’s fault. I have been around long enough to know that we still hit our big toes on a rock once in a while despite our best efforts. You will trust the wrong person with your heart, and they will blow it into smithereens. You will give your secrets to the wrong person, and they will broadcast them all over and such other unfortunate occurrences.
Any of these scenarios can be emotionally and mentally debilitating. But you don’t go home and neglect your injured toe and start railing against the injustice of the rock that hit you after getting injured. You wash your toe, disinfect it, bandage it and do whatever you need to do for it to heal. You take responsibility for your injury and your healing and forget about the rock altogether.
This past week, our news cycle has been dominated by Corporal Caroline Kangogo. The jury is still out, but speculation is rife on why she went on the rampage and killed two men. Many argue that the men could have betrayed her in one way or the other, but we can’t be sure at the moment.
What is clear is that a massive number of people in this country are walking around with untended emotional wounds. You can see it in the comments sections of posts about men and women. Men with festering wounds in their hearts go on and on about all women and women in the same condition doing the same against men. These are people who were once wounded but have never given heed to their healing.
Emotional healing doesn’t come unless we forgive. Failing to forgive is like focusing on the rock (which, of course, doesn’t care about your pain) while the wound on your big toe festers untended. Eventually, the toe stinks, and jiggers get in there (like they used to do when I was little). You can neither put on shoes nor suffer a blanket to touch the toe when you sleep.
In the same way, when the root of bitterness takes hold of the heart, consumes all, and makes life unlivable, it produces poisonous fruit. Forgiveness is indeed self-love.
The Bible, in Hebrews 12:15b, says,
‘Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.’
This country has too many angry people, and the anger comes out in tragic consequences. It leads to insufferable marriages where you make your wife or husband pay for all the wrongs ever committed against you by their gender. Children who grow up in these polluted environments are often damaged, and this root of bitterness is the leading cause of the increasing cases of murder in the family.
Be careful and prayerful where you walk as you look for love; it is a brutal world. If you are injured, forgive and heal. Stewing in your pain and misery can only corrupt your life and the lives of others.