A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of “How to Be Free From Bitterness” by Jim Wilson. I don’t think of myself as being a bitter person, but reading the article illuminated some seeds of bitterness that may be growing in my heart and instilled urgency in uprooting them before they take over.
In the article, the author defines bitterness as the feeling we experience when someone else—especially someone close to us—sins against us. This would explain why relational conflict with parents, siblings, spouses, co-workers, relatives, significant others, supervisors, and friends are fertile ground for bitterness to grow and where I personally have most often experienced it.
When I am hurt, it’s easy for me to justify or rationalize the anger or frustration I have against my offender. It seems right for me to be bitter. The author reminded me, however, that no matter how much someone has hurt me or how many times they have hurt me, the Bible does not grant me the right to be bitter. Ephesians 4:31-32 commands me to, “get rid of all bitterness” and to be kind and compassionate to others, forgiving others, just as in Christ God forgave me.
Bitterness has a tendency to grow quickly. It not only impacts my relationship with the person who I am bitter against, but it also infects my own soul—turning me away from being the gracious, forgiving, joy-filled person I desire to be and more toward the vindictive, resentful, grumpy person that I don’t want to be. It’s tempting for me to think that if the person who hurt me was out of my life or if they apologized, my bitterness would disappear. But, I know this isn’t true because my bitterness can linger long after someone is gone. And, even if my offender apologizes, my bitterness can reappear and compound quickly when that same person sins against me again. Thus, my freedom from bitterness cannot depend on the actions of others, but only on a complete uprooting of my bitterness from within.
I know this is an impossible task on my own, so I was thankful for the author’s reminder to call on our God for help. I will only find freedom from my bitterness by confessing it to God, admitting it is my own sin, accepting my Savior’s forgiveness, asking Him to completely remove it, and learning from His great example how to replace it with true forgiveness. I certainly haven’t mastered this process, but I’m thankful to be reminded again of the negative impact bitterness has on my life and the lives of others and of the importance of getting on my knees and asking the Lord to take it from me. If you are interested in reading this article or other short essays on issues that come up in relationships, check out the full booklet here: http://ccmbooks.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Bitterness2010.pdf
By Katie Miller
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