The number one leading cause of death in the United States is said to be heart disease. Heart disease conditions include heart arrhythmias, coronary artery disease and heart defects. In my very limited experience, I’ve observed one of the leading causes of spiritual death is likewise, heart disease. No, this isn’t anything nearly as related to that of the heart disease talked about in medicinal practice. This spiritual heart disease condition comes in the form of anger (present hurt) and bitterness (past hurt). Whether spiritual heart disease can lead to physical heart disease, I do not know. But I’d air on the side of believing it does. There’s a reason why doctors ask, “are you stressed or is anything stressing you out?” The parts of us that are unseen directly affects that which is seen.
Anger and bitterness. The world calls these emotions. Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy writes on “emotion” stating …
No aspect of our mental life is more important to the quality and meaning of our existence than the emotions. They are what make life worth living and sometimes worth ending.
Anger is a natural response to unmet expectations and perceived injustice. Bitterness is unresolved anger. These emotions are directly linked to our mental and physical health. Unlike most emotions, anger and bitterness left unaddressed can lead to death, both physical and spiritual.
Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. - Psalms 37:8
The writer of Psalm 37 encourages us to stay away from anger and more so, reject wrath. They also proceeded with, “fret not.” Fret is when anger shifts to worry that it eats away that later becomes bitterness. It’s a process. In order to avoid the out of control version of anger, we first must start with avoiding becoming easily angered. But that’s easier said than done, am I right?
Have you ever met someone that was instantaneously bitter? Probably not. Ask any bitter person you know, “so, what happened? Why do you feel the way you do about _______?” They will tell you of a moment(s) of anger that overtime led them to feel the way they do. They may even say “I will just never get over it.” Maybe the bitter person is you. You know exactly why you feel the way you do about ________ and you’ve refused to let go. Don’t get me wrong, becoming angry is not a sin. It’s a natural response to injustice. Becoming bitter is where things become tricky. When anger shifts to bitterness we become emotional debt collectors seeking an apology from the one that hurt us, from society and sometimes, even from God. We effortlessly strive for something we will never receive and justify our bitterness by living in the rut of hurt.
A friend of mine worked as a debt agent for an organization. Her job was to call those who owed the organization letting them know their bill(s) were overdue. She was simply doing her job, but those on the receiving line did not like what she had to say. She was degraded and emotionally abused for seeking debt being paid on the organization’s behalf. This affected her mentally, physically and emotionally. This was my friend’s job. For some of us, we’ve taken on this job on behalf of a loved one. We’ve become emotional debt collectors for our parents, siblings, and family. We’ve taken on a job title that was never ours. Similar to my friend, we are left mentally, physically and emotionally callused.
Emotional debt collectors can be a role we take on without even recognizing it. Either because someone directly hurt us or someone we know. Emotional debt collectors won’t rest until the emotional debt is collected. Forgiveness is completely out of the question. Unfortunately, too many of us lack the realization that our newfound title of emotional debt collector has left us mentally, physically and emotionally crippled. We rejoice when the one that hurt us suffers, we wish the worst on them and lose the quality of life with those around us because our focus is, revenge.
I am not a people watcher, but I am a people listener. I know, it’s odd, but you should try it sometime. If you’re by yourself, take a moment to simply sit and listen. Want to know the condition of a person’s heart? Listen to their tongue. The tongue is the bucket, and the heart is the well. Emotional debt collectors live and speak in the past. Their tongues speak from hurt and emotional pain left unresolved. Their heart wells not with joy, rather with painful bitterness.
I’d like to say Christians do not struggle with this, but that would be a flat out lie. Christians struggle with this the most in my opinion. Why? Because we’ve developed self-righteous mentalities. Martin Luther once said, “Be careful not to measure your holiness by other people’s sin.” That’s what emotional debt collectors do. We live in victim hood and view those who’ve offended, hurt, and crossed us as they are nothing. We elevate ourselves in hurt and degrade those who hurt us in shame.
Here’s what I know, bitterness is equally as dangerous as any immoral sin. Heaven is not going to wait for you to collect your emotional debt. If you found out today you had a heart disease and your lifespan is cut short unless fixed, you’d probably try your best to get that fixed. You would tell that heart doctor of yours to do whatever it takes. Even if it’s as dangerous as a heart transplant. That attitude should be the same for those of us who struggle with emotional heart disease. Your heart doctor is the one who created you. Whether you believe in God or not, if you need a cure for heart disease, ask Him to work on your heart. I’ve asked God to give me a heart transplant after tirelessly seeking to collect emotional debt. That’s a story for another time, but I’ll tell you this. I sure am glad I did that. When my heart shifted, it was only then did I realize the forgiveness I was seeking wasn’t for the one that hurt me. Forgiveness was for me.
Are you an emotional debt collector? Heaven’s not going to wait on you to collect your emotional debt. It’s time to trade the title you’ve given yourself as emotional debt collector, for forgiveness and peace.