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You Can Beat Your Bitterness 

“Lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15

When a close relative or trusted friend does something to hurt you, repercussions happen.  Had it been someone more distant, you could have ignored it. Your first reaction is shock, “How could you?” To approach the person about the issue seems pointless or awkward. You may feel you would be lowering yourself to do so. You don’t even know if or how you would be received. Besides, since you were the one wronged, you think that any attempt at reconciliation should be initiated by the other person. The tension escalates, and soon the damage translates into a major set-back in life. The problem seems to come up in every conversation, and your whole life becomes one big reaction to the problem.  This is the bitterness trajectory, and few matters in life cause more injury or lead to worse health, both physical and spiritual. 

The Greek word for bitterness is “pikria,” meaning pointed, or sharp.  Its literal meaning is an “unpleasant taste.  In Greek literature, pikria referred more often to matters of the soul or spirit.  In the New Testament, Paul warned, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Colossians 3:19. Bitterness is intense animosity, cynicism, ill-will, and is very similar to resentment.  Bitterness motivated Cain to murder his brother Abel.  Characteristics of bitterness include a cantankerous or caustic spirit, along with a host of negative traits. Sometimes physical problems accompany bitterness, like: insomnia, psychosomatic illnesses, anger (often over insignificant matters) and vindictiveness. 

The “root” of bitterness calls attention to three things: 1) Roots grow from seeds.  A seed of truth always goes before bitterness.  The seed is often used to justify bitterness.  2) Roots draw strength from the soil.  The root of bitterness robs good roots from much needed nutrients. 3) Eventually, roots always spring up with a poisonous stem above the ground.  The unseen becomes visible to all. The only difference between bitterness and  MURDER is that one is hatred unfulfilled, while the other is hatred fulfilled.

Remember, you are responsible for your own spirit!  Blaming others for your own spiritual condition is counter-productive. Do not dismiss bitterness as irrelevant.  Bitterness is sin. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love… Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11. Love and forgiveness is the essence of Christianity. Bitterness makes you smaller, meaner, more cynical and less Christ-like, and will affect your entire life in many ways. 

Examine your conscience for bitterness. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.  Gauge your bitterness by these questions: What are your wishes for the other person? Can you pray for him or her? Do you talk openly against this person? 

Confess your bitterness to God, and, if necessary, to a spiritual leader. (1 John 1:9). Leave all judgment to God! Consider the Old Testament example of Joseph. The offense against him was blatant and clear-cut.  His life was completely altered. At the end, he had his brothers in his power. Instead of revenge, Joseph’s triumph over bitterness meant the salvation of Israel. “If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians 3:12-14.

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