The burden of internal bitterness:
My fascination for religious teachings, fueled by an internal reflection on their significance, remains an unmatched plethora for spiritual reflection. Nonetheless, today was a little different. Why? Because the burdens of life have prompted a much deeper reflection on how to deal with bitterness.
Fueled by the need to address expectations, circumstances dictated that I needed to drop by a money remitting kiosk that society describes as a “banking agent.” The aim was to save me from the endless queues that fill banks at this time of the year owing to parents that shoulder the scorching sun and seemingly endless lines to pay their kids’ fees.
In the outcasts of one of the peri-urban upper-class shopping centers, I drove my little “lundaganya” as I prefer to call it, to this service agent, who I prefer to remain anonymous. The serving point had four male adults drenched in exquisite perfume and clad in leisure attire patiently waiting for their turn to get served. The gentleman in me immediately inquired whether they were part of the queue to assess how long it would take before my turn. Upon receiving the confirmation, I waited patiently at the back.
The service at this outlet is always top-notch, prompting why I drive a few kilometres to them. As the lads were served one by one, a young female aged about 35 years of age popped by. Her desire — ‘to get served’.
Naturally, I assumed she was humbly waiting in line to get served. Unfortunately, it seemed precarious to me that the teller wanted to serve her quicker than everyone onsite, a situation I found disturbing.
I immediately fumed and, boiling with anger, I took it upon myself to find out what was going on. Why? Because it occurred to me that once again, life was throwing another taste of social injustice that seems to be a social norm these days.
You might think, that maybe this was a perception stretched too far and that we often describe this as OK and ‘the world we live in today,’ but boy did I wear my talkative shoes in the heat of the moment. I gushed at this young lady with all the fury that life can throw at the world. I reminded her how these manners are alien in our society and how this level of intolerance is unacceptable.
I could go on and on about the heated exchange that we had with each other. But for now, I will choose to keep it sane. Cutting the long story short, I got served and quickly strolled down to my car to tend to the little ones and my partner, who was waiting patiently in the scorching sun to go home.
Whilst walking to the car, my head was bursting with anger, hatred, discontent and many other things. I continued this discussion with her as I tried to justify my anger and fury.
“She was arrogant,” I said, demeaning and full of pride. She came at me trying to justify her ill manners, and I fought back hard and really, hard. Of course, this was me trying to reaffirm my actions. On second thought, I was subconsciously trying to inquire whether there was justification for my actions.
After driving a few miles, it dawned on me that maybe she was right in some sense. “Maybe I exuberated some form of unnecessary and exaggerated internal bitterness.
With all these “maybe’s” in my mind, I chose to re-examine my conscience to find out what really happened. The answers could be the unsung realities of many social outbursts that we witness in society, but I will choose to mention a few purely out of perceptive analysis.
As we grow, we are exposed to various walks of life, some endearing, others destraughting. Along the way, we adopt behaviors that allow us to deal with what we see, hear, and bear. In our homes, we choose to follow the social constructs of society that promote respect, humility, and silence even when circumstances are unequal, troubling, and humiliating.
At school, we are witnesses to the same burdens, often as a result of the circumstances at the time. Children get better treatment and favours from teachers due to the wealth and social position of their parents. Streaming, educational activities, and participation preferences are related to received, presumed, and planned benefits.
The same deficiencies can be found in tertiary and higher education institutions, where scholarships and points (such as sports affiliated points) are or were given to a specific group of people based on their affiliations and connections.
Besides education, the constructs of alienation continue to be in job opportunities, social groups, and public and private sectors that favour the privileged over the able. I can go on and on to areas such as access to medical care, road use, development opportunities and many more. But for purposes of highlighting the challenges, I will choose to stop here.
These social irregularities breed discontent, promote internal dissatisfaction, and breed a culture of unforeseeable bitterness. You and I may not see it now, or may never get the chance to see it in our lifetime, but we must be aware that it exists, it’s real, and it has consequences that will come out at one given time.
Of course, the circumstances may not justify the reactions, and different psychoanalysts will describe the circumstances from varying viewpoints. However, there must be a reminder that, silent or not, humanity is aware.
The reactions to these injustices breed contempt and are the foundation of a growing uproar against many circumstances beyond our imagination. As a society, we are experts at hiding our emotions, a trait advanced by our cultural orientations, but we must open our minds and hearts to understand that our actions have a significant impact on the lives of many.
Therefore, we must live a life that is conscientious. One that advocates for what is right and honorably carries the ‘what is right flag,’ in everything we do.
Secondly, a cross-examination of psycho-social effects may be necessary to clearly disregard abnormalities that may have arisen due to subconscious influences. This could be an interesting area to explore, but for now, I will choose to leave you with the following questions:
What if the world is getting tired of social injustices? What if the marginalized are finally speaking out? What if the constraints of internal bitterness are linked to adoptive behavior resulting from years of continuous disregard for equality, and that the events of today are a manifestation of the rising global issues of human rights and social fairness? What if the world, directed by the growing influx of technology, is adapting to unusual ways of addressing social issues? Can we assume that the happenings could be a result of subconsciously tormenting social practices?
What if our social systems are dead and therefore society is adopting new social norms to address deficiencies? Have we lost ‘Ubuntu’ in our reactions, or are the toils of trying to make ends meet and the disregard for fairness taking their toll?
Do we have obliterated views on public behavior, or is behavior changing as a result of unending social misbehavior? Can we attach the continuous frustrations to the effects of high fuel prices that have resulted in a drastic increase in day-to-day use items without addressing the financial inequalities of society? Can we draw lessons from this behavior and advance new strategies to address the growing sense of internal bitterness? Are there justified pathways that have been adopted by other societies that we can learn from to reduce the growing effects of inequality; and how can we translate them into our own society?
Today’s first reading (Acts 8:26–40) for Thursday 5th May 2020 presents an interesting manifest. As Phillip walked in the desert, the spirit of the Lord drew him to a chariot in which he heard “Eunuch” reading about Isaiah. Passive as he was, he asked her, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I unless one guides me?” (Acts 8:30–32) On this occasion, he invited Phillip to come and sit in the chariot with him to interpret for him what he was reading.
The reading said, “As a sheep led to the slaughter, or a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” In his humiliation, justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth. “ (Acts 8:32–34)
The words from Isaiah were a proclamation of the death of Christ and the reactions preceeding his death. Borrowing from them, we are given an important lesson on the power of silence and the willingness to accept God’s will for the salvation of mankind.
Of course, humanity cannot compare themselves to the sanctity of God in Christ, but his reactions towards the greatest injustice draw me and you into a school of thought. One that relates God’s purpose for eternity or our expectations as advocates of love and brotherhood.
How many times do we accept ridicule in the name of peace? How often do we look past social injustices through advocating for the teachings of Christ? What measures do we use to challenge unfriendly, unworthy behavior? What examples do we set as Christians that proclaim the presence of Christ in us? What is the true meaning of love and brotherhood? And how often do we carry this phenomenon in our actions?
Today’s gospel reading provides a fulfilling answer that philosophers and believers always question. For purposes of promulgating learning, I will choose to share my school of thought.
“Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and never die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh “(John 6:47–51)
Nothing in life is as fulfilling as love for yourself and love for others, so much so that we bear witness to its sovereignty in Christianity globally and its meaning. What does this mean? I believe it means that we must be aware of our actions and their effects on others. That is, our love for one another should exceed our own love for temporal glorification. By borrowing from the love that our Lord had for our salvation, let us live lives that desist from breeding internal bitterness.
May the ultimate sacrifice of our redemption be the pillar of our association with others, so that rather than being apostles of internal bitterness, our lives may be the spiritual tower of love, friendship, prosperity, communion, and charity.
May he deepen our appreciation of the Eucharist and his presence in others, so much so that our lives may be a fountain of tolerance, forgiveness, and humility.
The author is a scholar on humility and an advocate of humanitarianism and good social practices. Email: email@example.com