Through my writing abilities I have been blessed in recent times to make acquaintance with people of different faiths, beliefs, and cultures from many different parts of the world to include such places as Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Ghana West Africa to name but a few. Many of those new found friends have often taken the time to express their gratitude for my willingness to share the things that I write, and for openly expressing my thoughts and feelings on different topics. Though their kind words and accolades are wonderful to read and hear, along with their sweetness also comes the bitterness of others.
I am a firm believer and have often said that anyone who thinks that they will be able to journey through this life and everyone is going to befriend them and like them are only deceiving themselves. There are people who will genuinely like you. There are some people who will always be cordial and friendly towards you regardless if they like you or not. Then, there are people who do not need a particular reason not to like you, but they just do. And so, as we journey through this life we must learn to accept the bitter along with the sweet. In my humble experiences, I have found that it is often the sour taste of bitterness, that if received in the proper manner – without an attitude of malice, resentfulness or retaliation – can be turned into something sweet tasting and delectable. I will admit that it is not always easy to be patient with people who never have anything constructive to say, but always manage to barrage me with negative, cynical, and sarcastic comments. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the words of such people as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher who once said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
Even in recent days I have received some very bold and brash comments from people concerning the fact that I am Black and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inerrantly referred to by the world as Mormon). Just for the record, though race should not have to be an issue, the negative feedback has come from both Blacks and Whites. Such comments have included: “N***** you are crazy! Why don’t you go hang yourself before the Mormons do it for you”, “You are a member of the wrong religion. That is a White man’s religion. Why are you associated with it?”, and “Why don’t you just kill yourself and be done with it.” Some people would immediately want to lash out against the persons that made such comments for as Jean-Jacques Rousseau also said, “Remorse sleeps during prosperity but awakes bitter consciousness during adversity.” Victor Hugo, a French author, probably described bitter remarks best when he said, “Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.”
We are taught in scripture to “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” (Romans 12:14). When I read or hear such comments I am reminded of the words of the Savior to His disciples when He told them in John 15:18-21:
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
The Savior also taught His disciples, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” In His sermon on the mount He taught, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6: 26-28).
Not only have I received negative comments because of my religious beliefs, but there are also those who feel that I am “over the top” in stating my points of view and what I know to be truth. As someone has wisely said, “The Truth is heavy, therefore few care to carry it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, polymath, and considered the supreme genius of modern German literature, once said, “Truth has to be repeated constantly, because error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude. In the press and encyclopedias, in schools and universities, everywhere error holds sway, feeling happy and comfortable in the knowledge of having majority on its side.”
Regardless of what the naysayer has to say, I still hold that to know what the truth is and to deny it for the sake of pleasing the masses, or for fear of being rejected or being considered an outcast, is like denying food to one who is hungry, or a drink of water to one who is thirsty, even though you are able to give a morsel of bread to kill their hunger, or a cool drink of water to quench their thirst. Regardless of the reprisals, I must continue to stand up for what I know to be the truth, whether in written word or through the words that I speak. The words may be as many as those contained in a discourse or dissertation, or as few as a brief statement of truth. It does not matter, for as Chief Joseph: of the Wal-lam-wat-kain (Wallowa) band of Nez Perce Indians once said, “It does not require many words to speak the truth.” Truth is truth, whether one person believes it, ten thousand people believe it, or no one believes it, it is still truth. I take great comfort in the words of our Savior when He said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I am also reminded of the words recorded in 1 John 3:19-22:
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
I cannot allow myself to be swayed because of a few bitter tasting morsels that are mixed in with the sweet. I must remember that there is opposition in all things. Both the sweet and the bitter are a necessary part of the whole. If life were always sweet, I would never learn how to react to the bitter for there would be no need to do so. But, because I have tasted of the bitter as well, I can choose to turn it into something sweet by continuing to be obedient to the Lord’s will for my life and “keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).I leave these humble thoughts with you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.