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Counselor’s Corner: Dealing with Bitterness

Bitterness is displaced anger, and resentful cynicism that results in intense antagonism or hostility towards others. You can get hurt so badly in life that you become cynical and hard. Bitterness can affect one experiencing profound grief, and is the state of mind which willfully holds on to angry feelings, ready to take offense, and able to break out in anger at any time. A person who is bitter is often resentful, cynical, harsh, cold, and unpleasant to be around. An expression of these characteristics is sin against God.

Bitterness happens and most often is a normal response to hardships or sorrowful situations. However, we should see to it that we deal with any bitterness in our lives, for if we do not it can cause a host of other sins, such as, hatred, cruelty, antagonism, self-pity, vindictiveness, and prideful ambitions. Bitterness motivates complaining. People who habitually complain are bitter people. When we allow bitterness to fill us with occupation with self, with life, and problems, we are on dangerous territory.

Bible examples of bitterness:

Women who are bitter because they cannot have children (1 Samuel 1:10)
A foolish son is bitterness to his mother (Proverbs 17:25)
Suffering causes bitterness to people who do not give priority relationship to God (Deuteronomy 32:24)
Ruth asked that her name be changed to “Mara” meaning bitter because of her losses (Ruth 1:20-21).
Job’s complaint to God, “Why does God let this happen to me,” is a statement of bitterness (Job 9:17-18)

Reflect and ponder: Do you struggle with bitterness? Ask God to show you what the “roots” are to your bitterness, and begin putting the “axe” to the roots one by one by confessing each one.

Counselor’s Corner: When a Christian is bitter, there is a loss of close fellowship with the Lord.  Bitterness becomes sin when we do not forgive others that have hurt us, (Ephesians 4:13), when jealousy and selfish ambition occurs (James 3:14), and when we allow a bitter root to grow (Hebrews 12:15).

Roots of bitterness that need to dealt with and pulled up out of our lives:

1.      Unforgiveness of wrong-doing by others.
2.      Animosity and anger towards others and even God.
3.      Not trusting God’s sovereignty and His plans for our lives.
4.      Getting hung up on why something has happened in your life.
5.      Feeling that life is just not fair (at least not to you).

Bitterness shows up in (3) ways:

1.      Directed against God. You feel He could have protected or prevented unpleasant and harmful things from happening in your life. You feel angry and ask, “Lord, if you love me why did you allow this to happen?” or “Lord, why have you not answered my prayers?”
2.      Against other people. You have been hurt, mistreated, used, and rejected by others.  This kind of pain usually happens with the people we are the closest to. You might say,” I forgive them,” but your heart says “I will hang onto this hurt a little while longer to make them “pay” for hurting me.”
3.      Against yourself. This comes in the form of not being able to forgive yourself, which in turn can cause you to live in self-pity. You believe you deserve whatever has happened to you, or that you are being punished by God and “should take it.”

Bitterness is often caused by people, most of the time by people we love, or people we cannot confront, or people we trust. Grace includes the ability to look at people and see them as God sees them, and includes the ability to let them live their lives as directed by the Lord, and trusting that God will make His way clear to them. Grace allows people to make mistakes without judging them. Forgiveness is the key to right relationships with others, it will promote joy and peace in your lives. Does it matter how many times someone has hurt you? No, forgive as often as it takes. Do not allow unforgiveness to fester, and allow grudges to grow. Bitterness is also caused by hardships and sorrows in our lives. Realizing that your happiness does not depend on people or circumstances can be very freeing.

Trust God in the things that you do not understand. Easier said than done, but relinquish your plans and your desires to the Almighty.


My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint to myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
Job 10:1

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.
Hebrews 12:15


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