Stupidity of Bitterness

Stupidity of Bitterness


Indulging in bitterness is one of the most stupid things we ever do. How stupid is it? Well, think about it this way.

Imagine that someone stabbed you in the arm with a knife, leaving it there. After he flees, you stare in horror at the knife, then in agony take the handle in your other hand and pull it out.

Disappointed mature businessswoman thinking over somethingAfter a moment, you impulsively stab yourself again. With your own hand and by your own choice. You do it again and again, day after day, week after week. It’s one of the most self-destructive acts you could ever do.

But that’s exactly what bitterness is.

People betray us, lie to us, gossip about us, fail to support us. It hurts. It hurts badly. It’s like they’ve stabbed our hearts with a knife.

All too often, rather than turning to God for grace to respond to the wrong with wisdom and forgiveness, we choose to indulge bitterness. We keep thinking about that wrong. We play it like a video in our mind over and over. We stab ourselves with the sharp memory of the incident, feeling the pain again and again.

This is why the Bible tells us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). God wants to spare us from the repeated, unnecessary pain we tend to inflict on ourselves.

How do we find this relief? The answer is found in the words that surround verse 31: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” and “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (v. 30, 32).

The key to getting rid of bitter memories is to get my focus back on God. In the terms of relational wisdom, to become more God-aware and God-engaging. How?

First by remembering that bitterness in my heart grieves my Father’s heart … which I never want to do.

Second, by thanking God over and over for all he has done for me through Christ … especially for the countless times has forgiven me for disobeying and hurting him.

And third, by asking him to fill me so full of his grace and love that I naturally imitate him as I respond to those who have wronged me.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:30-32).

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

Think of a time when you felt prolonged bitterness toward someone.

  • How did it affect you? (Psalm 73:21-22; Psalm 106:32-33; Acts 8:23; James 3:14)
  • How did it affect your relationship with God? (Isaiah 59:1-2)
  • How did it affect your relationship with others? (Proverbs 10:12)
  • How can focusing on the Lord help you to get rid of bitterness? (Eph. 4:30-32)

For more insights on the role God-awareness and God-engagement play in improving your relational wisdom, go here.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2013 Ken Sande

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5 Responses to "Stupidity of Bitterness"
  1. A few years ago, my family went through a catastrophic sorrow that my brother called “a slow train wreck.” We were helpless to change the circumstances; the road before us was going to end in a terrible loss. Physical suffering is often irreversible. But, praise God, emotional pain can be healed. Negative self-talk, bitter wounds, and unforgiveness will lead to that train wreck. But the kindness of God lets us know that we will “grieve” the Holy Spirit if we don’t trust Him in this. Somehow being sealed in the Holy Spirit makes a difference, too. We belong to a God with the power to reverse what seems destined to be a catastrophic end. Trusting Jesus changes every destiny. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

    • How true, Judy. No matter what the circumstances or how deep the hurt, we still have the ability, by God’s grace, to choose our response. As Viktor Frankl (a Holocaust survivor) wrote, “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude.”

  2. Bitterness can be very hard to let go of. When we realize it is a sin that Christ died for, it becomes easier to let the wrong go. I know I have hurt God more than anyone has ever hurt me.

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