Dr. Michael Linden, a German psychiatrist, announced at a 2009 meeting of the American Psychiatric Association that he had identified a new mental illness. The disorder is modeled after post-traumatic stress disorder because it too is a response to a trauma that endures.
And what is this new disorder?
Linden has labeled it “Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder.” Those suffering from the disorder feel they have been wronged by someone and are so bitter they can barely function other than to ruminate about their circumstances. These embittered people are left seething for revenge.
"They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It's one step more complex than anger. They're angry plus helpless," says Linden.
Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job or a relationship or activity, Linden says. When something unexpectedly awful happens - they don't get the promotion, the wife files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team - a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. Instead of dealing with the loss with the help of family and friends, they cannot let go of the feeling of being victimized. Almost immediately after the traumatic event, they become angry, pessimistic, aggressive, hopeless haters.
"These people usually don't come to treatment because 'the world has to change, not me,' " Linden says. “They are almost treatment resistant....Revenge is not a treatment."
It’s amazing what anger can do when it's left to fester in our sin-darkened hearts, isn’t it? It may be a new "disorder," but bitterness is an old theme - and an even older sin. It literally goes all the way back to the world’s first people, to Adam and Eve, and their two sons, Cain and Abel.
This is surely why God commands us: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32, NIV)
Many good things come out of Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins, but this is perhaps one of the very best. Basking in the warm glow of Jesus’ mercy, I can show mercy to others. Even more, I can love and forgive them with the same undeserved grace that caused our Heavenly Father to send his Son into the world.
Isn’t it great that God is not bitter against us, despite all our many sins? I may sometimes suffer from Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. But God never does! He doesn’t seethe. He frees.
As the prophet Jeremiah reassuringly wrote: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:34, NIV)