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Avoiding Bitterness from Setbacks


six cups of coffee in varying colors

By: Chaplain Doug Samples, SNU Professional and Graduate Studies

This is the fourth in a series of articles Chaplain Doug Samples has shared called 10 Decisions for a Positive Attitude. Decision #4 is, “Sit on the lid and laugh.” You can view all 10 decisions here.

Even though I am a positive person, I’ve got just as many things to complain about as you do! My body has aches and pains just like you! I just got hit with bad news like you did last week!

People take advantage of me just like they do with you.

I don’t like that decision any more than you do!

He frustrates me as much as (or more than) he does you!

You’re not the only one that got cut off in traffic this morning!

You’re not the only one who wants to be mad about this situation!

You have no idea the brokenness that I am carrying!

As we go through our week, we collect all these “paper cuts.” None of them actually kill us, but when we get two or three hundred paper cuts a day, how do we respond? Do we allow these cuts to build up to the point that… “Life Sucks!” or do we keep pushing forward, trying to have a positive attitude?

Here’s the truth: EVERYBODY deals with these paper cuts!

The rain (and the hail and the tornadoes) falls on the just and the unjust!

Some of us choose to respond to the ugliness of life with negativity and mean-ness, which makes things worse for everyone! And then others of us have figured out that we need to find a way to respond to the uglies of life with grace and kindness.

I have learned to create a Big Box where I store all my hurts and grievances. It’s entitled “Sit on the Lid and Laugh”

Here’s how it works, according to poet Bertha Adams Backus:

Build yourself a strong box.
Fashion each part with care.
When it’s as strong
as your hand can make it,
put all your troubles there.

Hide there all thought of your failures
and each bitter cup that you quaff.
Lock all your heartaches within it,
then sit on the lid and laugh.

Tell no one else its contents,
never it’s secrets share.
When you’ve dropped
in your care and worry,
keep them forever there.

My dear friends, when the paper cuts are piling up, the pain isn’t optional. If it hurts, it hurts! No pretending!

But giving in to the poison of bitterness is a choice.

“And bitterness is a poison that will kill your soul!”  - J.C. Watts

For more posts like these, subscribe to our blog or email Chaplain Samples directly at with questions.

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