plant being held

How Can I Choose Love Over Bitterness?

Even when the world gives us every reason to be bitter, we can make the choice to cultivate love in our hearts.

"Let us dig the soil of bitterness, throw in a seed of love, and see what fruits it can give us." -Julia Mavimbela. plant.

photo by jean lakosnyk

Under the government system of racial segregation called apartheid, South African communities were fraught with racial tension. But when the car accident that killed Julia Mavimbela’s husband was blamed on him because of his black skin, apartheid suddenly became personal for her. Bitterness formed in her heart, reflected in the words she wrote on her husband’s gravestone, “The lump still remains,” meaning that no matter the length of time since his death, Julia would never forget her loss or the source of her pain. How could she ever forgive?

Break the Soil of Bitterness: One Woman’s Quest for Healing,” a video produced by the Church History Department, tells Julia’s story of finding a love strong enough to overcome her bitterness. Julia’s choice to turn outward and serve others testifies of the ability we each have to choose what we make of the pain and suffering of this life.

Before Julia had ever heard the gospel, she recognized the danger of letting her wounds consume her. When youth in her community were rioting in response to the harsh apartheid laws, she decided to reach out to them. In teaching them how to garden, Julia demonstrated that it is possible to stop resenting and start loving. She told them, “Where there was bloodstain, a beautiful flower must grow. Let us dig the soil of bitterness, throw in a seed of love, and see what fruits it can give us.”

When Julia later met the missionaries and joined the Church, she said she finally found the way to replace her lump with love, becoming “filled with hope for the future.” As the world we live in becomes increasingly painful and unjust, we can look to Julia’s example as a reminder that through hope, which the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us, we can choose to cultivate love.

Watch the Church History Department’s video of Julia Mavimbela’s incredible story, “Break the Soil of Bitterness.”

Source: Church History

—Heather Randall, Mormon Insights

feature image by kyle ellefson

Find more insights

Read more about Julia Mavimbela in Matthew K Heiss’s Ensign article “Healing the Beloved Country: The Faith of Julia Mavimbela.”

Read more about the Church in South Africa in Matt McBride and James Goldberg’s Ensign article “Learning to Listen: The First Racially Integrated Branches in South Africa.”

Read or watch Elder Robert D. Hales’s talk, entitled “‘Come, Follow Me’ by Practicing Christian Love and Service” to discover how our burdens of bitterness can be made light as we choose to follow the Savior and love others.

Watch a short video, “Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light,” to learn how one man who tragically lost his wife and three of his children in a car accident forgave the drunk driver who hit them.


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