Just outside the gate

Anonymous drawing based on an oil painting by Henri Motte, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Anonymous drawing based on an oil painting by Henri Motte,
public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“A Trojan Horse sits just outside the gate of your heart. Its name is bitterness. It is a monument to every attack you have endured from your fellow human beings. It is a gift left by the people who have wronged you…It is rightfully yours. But to accept the gift is to invite ruin into your life.”Andy Stanley

Whoa. I don’t know about you, but that hits me hard. What jumps out most at me is the sentence “It is rightfully yours.” How often do we hang onto hurts and resentment simply because they are understandable, even justified?

If you think Stanley is wrong in warning that bitterness leads to ruin, I challenge you to watch the news and ask yourself how many of the stories of mayhem and violence have their roots in bitterness. Then think of some of the most inspiring, uplifting tales you have heard. Chances are, many of them feature a huge dose of forgiveness, understanding or willingness to move beyond hurt.

In today’s world, the Trojan Horse evokes thoughts of computer viruses that sneak onto hard drives and work widespread damage. It’s not a bad metaphor for the malevolent influence of resentment in our hearts. It sneaks into areas where it has no relevance, tainting what once was helpful, destroying any chance of happiness, new friendships and future success.

We cannot afford to accept this treacherous gift, no matter how appealing it may seem. It may have a sinister, seductive beauty about it. It may be large, and hard to get rid of. We may need outside help to deal with it safely. But we cannot afford to keep it.

Is there a Trojan Horse outside your gate? I’m working on dismantling mine. If you have one, I hope you’ll join me in neutralizing the evil influence of bitterness. It’s not easy, but the alternative is ultimately much worse.

28 Comments

  1. You said it better than anyone so far. I so agree. I’m lucky in that I don’t carry grudges or let little hurts pile into bitterness. The only one bitterness hurts is the one feeling it. Good one. 🙂

    • Thank you Marlene!

  2. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. It’s early java time for me!☕️🌅 The worst Trojan Horse for me is the one that penetrates the family. It can enter with words, jealousy of others, or even hatred. Too often, it happens quickly, and takes far longer to recapture what once was. Time heals some wounds, along with effort. I’m so thankful I am recalling a situation in the past tense. Thank you, Lord, for putting a long ago bitterness behind us. 💛

    • Good morning to you too, Sheila – although it’s night-time now for me. I agree, the Trojans that attack family peace are the worst. YES thank God for the healing!

  3. Ann

    Wow, what a surprising and apt analogy! I wonder how many people know the original reference to Trojan Horse?

    Julia, if you have any bitterness in you, it never comes cross here. What we do see of you is strength, determination, appreciation of nature and a deep love of your family.

    I’m chipping away at my own Trojan Horse- your words have helped!

    Good luck with your dismantling efforts.

    • Ann, I wondered the same thing, whether most kids learn about the Trojan Horse story. I think most of the time nowadays, we hear the term in connection with computer mischief.

      I’m glad if my bitterness doesn’t come through here. People who know me face-to-face for very long cannot help but be aware of it, I think. Years ago, I read in Rosalyn Carter’s autobiography about when President Carter lost the 1980 election, and spoke to his staff to thank them for their efforts. Someone said “Mr. President, you are a good example. You don’t seem bitter at all.” To which she replied “I’m bitter enough for both of us.” The minute I read that I thought of Jeff and me. I’ve always had much more a problem with bitterness than he does. In my life it’s mostly been focused on the way Matt’s disabilities have isolated us from others. I don’t think it’s intentional in most cases (although in some it obviously is), but it has changed the way I see the world and most aspects of it. For the better in some ways, and for the worse in others. Chipping away is a long, slow process. Thanks for joining me in moving in the right direction! It helps to know I’m not alone in working on it.

      • Ann

        👭 Me too!

  4. A powerful quote and one worthy of our consideration…

    • Thank you, Merry. It really hit me when I read it. The truth of it came through with power.

  5. Good morning, and OUCH, Julia!
    Embarrassingly, I dragged mine in at 5:30 this morning and purposely woke up someone who had kept me up past midnight last night. Of course, this Trojan horse is rightfully mine, and I pushed it back out the door immediately afterwards (declining to re -awaken that same person at 5:50 AM), but it IS right outside the door …. What an ominous thing to keep looking at, tempting me. You’re right – it must be dismantled! A Trojan horse is NOT suitable yard-art!

    • Susan, that makes me smile, the bit about Yard Art. Perhaps you can refashion it into a carousel horse, much more suitable. Just be sure to seal off that secret opening, and keep the people on it visible. I would have a TERRIBLE time with anyone who woke me up too early!!! And Jeff would be the one resenting being kept up late– that is, if anyone could possibly do it. He’s pretty good about not letting that happen, so he’s been a good influence on me.

  6. Julia, I’m amazed at how often your posts are so timely! I couldn’t sleep last night because of a conversation two days ago with a friend whom I have loved for decades. She said things about which I “have a right” to be resentful and bitter. What a poison is resentment! Thank you for this honest and eloquent post that spoke directly to me this morning. It’s exactly what I needed to hear! Your posts always lift me up and have continued to help me through some difficult times.

    • Wow, I love it when something turns out to arrive at the right time, whether it’s coming to me or from me. I’m so sorry your friend hurt you. I’ve been hurt many times by what people have said, but I’m also the type who unintentionally hurts people’s feelings a lot, I’m sure (tactful friends refer to it as being “very direct”). If my posts help in any way, that makes me feel happy! So many of us are easily hurt, and often for good reason, but life is much better when we learn to move past the bitter feelings. Paradoxically, I think the realization that the hurt is justified is often the beginning of healing. Hope you are feeling much better by now.

      • Thank you! It has taken some time to process what happened, why, and what to do about that sort of thing in the future.

        • Yes, I can identify. As I told a friend of mine who had been badly hurt by someone else’s behavior, sometimes we need to give ourselves time and patience to resolve it. Often, wounds need to be bandaged for protection before they can fully heal.

  7. HarryS

    Many years ago some of the best and hardest to follow advice or suggestion I ever received was to “Pray for my enemies”.
    It was similar to this!:

    But God isn’t interested in being anyone’s boss. (As far as we know, he never said, “Argh! Because I’m the Lord, that’s why!) He came that we might have life, and his radical love showed us what that is.

    Still, he realized some of his teachings would strike us as impractical, impossible, or just plain ridiculous. He knew we would balk and ask why:

    I’m supposed to love a mass murderer, Jesus? Really? I’m supposed to pray for a racist bully? You’ve got to be kidding. And that person in church who annoys me to no end? Come on.

    But He doesn’t play the boss card—or even the savior card. Instead, he offers explanations, incentives, and his own life.

    “So that,” he says.

    Love your enemies so that resentment and bitterness won’t eat you alive. Love your enemies so that you might be delivered from the prison of us-them thinking. Love your enemies so that all the faults you project onto others might be healed within yourself. Love your enemies so that God might find a dwelling place in you.

    Pray for those who persecute you so that you might come to realize how much they’re like you: wounded, frightened, precious, hungry for love, and usually doing the best they can. Pray for them so that you can live more fully as a beloved child of God. Pray for them that we might be one, siblings all.
    🙂 🙂

    I especially love the so that’s.

    • Harry, it was so helpful for me to read this. It’s something we know in our heads, but when we read it as you put it, it’s easier to believe it with our hearts, too. Thanks for sharing these healing thoughts. I am grateful for all the people all over the world who are determined to let love win.

  8. Very good, Julia. Food for thought.
    -Alan

    • Thank you, Alan.

  9. People spout out words in conversation and haven’t a clue of the impact on the listener. While donating my time to photograph a charity event the group leader reminded me to watch my language around the older teens with us. That struck me kind of funny so I asked if I had used inappropriate language and she responded that I had used the word crap.

    It took me a while to calm down as I couldn’t believe I had been reprimanded for using this simple phrase. It’s kind of mild compared to the rhetoric being used by our presidential candidates. At first I rebelled and wanted to fight back but then I realized it may be Satan’s way of undermining my good deed that week. Once I came to that realization I swept the comment under the rug and continued to serve God and give Him the praise. Words can be a double edged sword if you let them.

    • Oh, dear, whoever that was would definitely not want me around. I’m afraid my language is far too crude much of the time, and I might have unintentionally used an even worse term, if you get my drift. Like you, I usually don’t even realize what I said that offended someone. I have been scolded for saying “shut up,” and didn’t realize for a long time that some people consider that cussing. I would be dying to ask that person who reprimanded you if these kids were forbidden to watch television. From what little I have glimpsed just passing through the room where others are watching, I’m rather amazed at what gets on the air these days, and if even I am offended by it, that’s really saying something. BUT that’s no excuse for me, of course. I’m just saying that some adults might be amazed at the kind of language children hear all the time.

      Here’s a phrase I have used to substitute for the offensive word: “Bovine organic fertilizer.” Try it sometime, it will get the point across and they can’t very well get huffy with you for using that term. 😀 😀 😀

      • I’ve often said that I am not politically correct. My former landlord used to hate when I said that. She had her own issues I assure you.

        My immediate defensive thoughts about my reprimand situation was to challenge the young lady to read Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

        Was she boasting? Did she think hers didn’t stink but mine does? That’s crude but it was my first gut reaction. She was implying I wasn’t good enough to be around older teens. It really pissed me off but fortunately, I didn’t verbally respond, speaking my mind.

        • Bob, I definitely think you did the right thing in refraining from a verbal response. In my own experience, nothing good has ever come from my responding instantly and re-actively when someone says something that hurts. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to keep silent. The other hard part is that different things offend different people. Some language that offends me (such as using “God” or “Jesus” as a way of cussing or as a byword) doesn’t appear to bother other people at all. So I guess the safest and best path is for us to be as patient with each other as we can. No matter how holy I may hold God’s name myself, I don’t agree with becoming hostile with others about it. Such anger, in a worst-case scenario, can lead to the violence we have seen from Islamic extremists regarding the cartoonists in Denmark or the crude and offensive publications in France that led to a massacre at Charlie Hebdo.

          Regarding the woman who reprimanded you; it’s possible that she herself may have been scolded by a parent or supervisor for “allowing” such things in the past. It’s pretty surprising how demanding people can be with volunteers who are basically there doing a favor for them or their kids. In any case, again, I think you did well to remain silent.

  10. Sheila Vann

    Happy Birthday to “Big Brother” Grady! 🎂🎉🍪🍰🍦⚾️🎈 You know I wanted him to be born on July 29th and he had another plan. Thinking of y’all with much love! 🙏💛 She

    • Grady must have figured that he didn’t want to share a birthday with a family celebrity, hee-hee. 😀 Since you, Megan, Matt and Grady all have birthdays in close proximity to each other, maybe we can have a massive party sometime! So sorry I missed your special day, but hope it was happy!!! ❤ Sending you giant belated birthday hugs!

      • Sheila

        Oh, I promise you were there on the VERANDAH… We were sharing laughter, iced raspberry tea, and the southern heat with a little salty breeze! 💛😎

        • And what a refreshing break it was! BTW, Prince Edward Island is a PERFECT choice for this month’s Verandah – I could use those cooler temperatures right now. Like the author of this month’s quote, I too hear the birds “talking” to each other! What it loses in translation it makes up for in sheer delight.

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