One of the most devastating human emotions can be feelings of bitterness. It can creep in to our lives. Sometimes we do not even know how much it consumes our thought life and feelings. Before we know it, we are captured in the claws of the sin of unforgiveness.
Perhaps it starts with hurt feelings over what was said, another’s actions, or even a lack of response. We mull it over, and over. It festers in our gut. Our spirit can be crushed. We can get hard feelings about the person that we feel offended us. Perhaps those hurt want to get “even” at the other person. Before long, hurt feelings can lead to a host of other actions, including slander against the offending person, or avoidance of that person.
The hurt accomplished may not even be recognized by the offender. They may not even have a clue as to how one is reacting to their remarks or actions; yet the offendee’s bitterness digs deeper and deeper into their life.
Holding a grudge against another can be so devastating to some that it affects their health. Anger can be a result of bitterness. When angry, adrenaline and other hormones are released into the bloodstream, causing high blood pressure and a faster beating heart. Depression, ulcers, heart attack, and stroke have also been linked to those that are controlled by the stress of bitterness and unforgiveness. Not forgiving, and not attempting to forget the offense, can also lead people to do or say things to the offender that they would never think of doing or saying. Bitterness can indeed bind a person’s life.
All have wrongs done to them sometime in their lives that hurt their feelings. Some let them roll off their shoulders and go on with their life; others stew and never let go of what another has done to them. The Bible has much to say about bitterness and forgiving one another. Here is a glimpse of what is said in the Bible:
God says not to be bitter and hold a grudge!
“It’s not that easy to not be bitter,” is often said. This is true, but no sin is easy to stop. In order have a healthy life, and a good relationship with God, bitterness has to be halted.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour [to complain, utter loud noises], and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” (Ephesians 4:31).
Forgive those that wronged you.
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3).
Christ knows all you did; yet He still has forgiven all you have done, if you are saved! (John 3:16).
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32).
“Forbearing [to restrain from action against another] one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13).
Do not worry and occupy your thoughts with what another has done to you. The gateway to bitterness is the thought gate. Once a thought gets in and is contemplated on, it does more damage the more it is entertained in one’s thought life. Do not let yourself dwell on it. Stop thinking about it, before it gets out of hand.
“Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;” (Proverbs 24:19).
Do not even start entertaining thoughts of getting even.
“Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.” (Proverbs 24:29).
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8). If you think what the other person has done to you is wrong, how is it any better if you do the same or similar hurtful thing to them?
You certainly have wronged others; even unintentionally. You certainly want to be forgiven by others and the Lord; so, forgive those that have “wronged” you!
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12).
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”(Mark 11:25-26).
Forgive them, even if they do the offense more than once!
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21). See also Luke 17:4.
The only “getting even” God allows is to be nice to the offender!
“If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.” (Proverbs 25:21-22). Return unkindness with kindness! This is certainly not what the world gives as a solution. Vengeance never takes away hurt feelings.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” (Romans 12:14).
“ Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men." (Romans 12:17).
If there is any “getting even” to be done, God will do it; not you!
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19).
Do not be happy when bad things happen to them. Do not gloat, “They are getting theirs!”
“Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.” (Proverbs 24:17-18).
Unforgiveness, and the bitterness that often follows, does not help matters, nor change anything. The hurt feelings of bringing the matter up repeatedly certainly digs its trap deeper and deeper. The only way to get peace is to forgive.
“It’s easy for you to say; you don’t know what that person did to me.” You are right. I do not know, but I do know that carrying and harboring that bitterness is going to hurt you and others around you. Your only choices are to let it fester, or get rid of it. Hopefully, you truly want to get rid of it.
Although, you hear again and again to forget, most of us humans cannot forget. Only God can forget, when He chooses. We may not be able to get it out of our minds, but we can do our best not to let it come to mind.
“How do you do that?” Our Saviour fought off temptation with scriptures. That is the only remedy for any battle. When the thought enters your mind, repeat a verse, hopefully one that is about the sin you are tempted with and quote it repeatedly. It is hard to harbor thoughts of darkness and sin, when your mind is flooded with light! Praying about the problem and seeking God’s solution are the only way to have victory over your hurt feelings.
We all battle hurt feelings. It is our choice how we handle them. God is clear that we should not let those temptations rule and destroy our life. Instead of getting bitter, and even blaming God about a matter, it is the time to get close to him. It is during those hard times that we learn of his mercy and grace.
“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.” — Will Rogers