Leadership is influence. It is about taking individuals and teams to a brighter tomorrow. There can be something, however, in a leader’s life that harms our influence and makes our life or our tomorrow look very unattractive. A poison exists that is aggressive and not neutral. It infects our ability to connect with and influence others. That poison is Bitterness.
This past two weeks, Crawford Loritts and Shane Freeman of Fellowship Bible Church have discussed this leadership poison and the one thing that can combat it allowing us to be the leaders that our teams need.
Here are seven facts about bitterness:
- Bitterness can infect anyone.
- What we sanitize as “philosophical differences” is often a lack of forgiveness. Walls have been built.
- Bitterness comes from open, infected wounds that have not been attended to. We must take care of the exposed wound.
- Bitterness is an infection of the heart.
- We must deal with bitterness, not manage it.
- Bitterness kills your effectiveness as a leader.
- Bitterness does not want justice. It wants revenge.
The following are six signs you may be infected with bitterness:
- You recruit others to take up your offense. You are looking for and want allies.
- You suffer from anger issues. Who are you really mad at?
- You have unhealthy, unbalanced confrontation. In other words, you kill squirrels with an elephant gun. You hear the words “That was excessive.”
- You are obsessed by a hurt or injustice.
- You are passive-aggressive about revenge. You deal with it indirectly.
- You avoid your offender.
Here are five characteristics of bitterness:
- Bitterness is often beneath the surface. Bitter people often appear very nice.
- As a result, bitterness can be sudden and unpredictable.
- Bitterness is destructive and causes trouble. Bitter people are trouble makers. It is only a matter of time.
- Bitterness infects others. It is a poison that pollutes, stains, and contaminates.
- Like any infection, bitterness if unchecked will cause a person to be “quarantined” from others.
If you are a leader suffering from bitterness, what is the antidote to this poison? The answer is Forgiveness. Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me.
4 things forgiveness is not:
- Forgiveness is not forgetting.
- Forgiveness does not mean there will be no pain or consequences.
- Forgiveness is not a one-time event.
- Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
Why then should we forgive:
- Forgiveness should happen in-person. Do not take the lazy way out by sending a letter, email, or text. They need to see your body language.
- We are never more like Jesus than when we forgive.
- When we don’t forgive, the one we hurt is actually ourselves.
- We experience consequences (such as anger or loss of influence) when we do not forgive.
- As a leader, we do not want to be defined by the offense.
- We want a clear conscience.
Finally, if you still want to remain bitter and not forgive an offense done to you, remember these final thoughts:
- Bitterness is more expensive than forgiveness. It will cost you more.
- Forgiveness is more costly in the beginning, but you have a lifetime of freedom.
- Bitterness is easy to receive, but you have a lifetime of confinement (barriers and walls).
- Bitterness and joy cannot share the same space. Bitterness forces joy out of your life.
Leaders, simple question – Are you bitter towards anyone? If so, please, please, please forgive them and become the person and leader you are called to be.
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