We can’t afford to be bitter because we fully understand the dangerous consequences of bitterness. Bitterness is tantamount to self-destruction. And because of this we fear bitterness and run away from it. Nothing we say or do is propelled or fueled by bitterness.
The book of Hebrews warns us about allowing bitterness to take root. “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)
We can be bitter while claiming, “I’m not bitter! How could you say that?” We can tell ourselves we have forgiven someone while still allowing resentment to fester and build. Allowing bitterness to remain in your life will plunge you further and further away from the liberty and freedom of Christ. It will harden, break, and destroy the good in your life. Bitterness erodes optimism, shatters joy, and kills our ability to love others well. A bitter person goes through life with a heart that does not fully function. They live in a land of spiritual poverty while those around them drown.
It’s not good to be bitter. No one has to be bitter! Jesus Christ offers the power to stop bitterness before it starts and heal wounded hearts no matter how great the offence. Forgiveness is the key. Part of Jesus’s coming into the world was to “destroy the works of the devil”, (see 1 John 3:8b). Bitterness is a work of our flesh that the devil loves to exploit. Jesus came so that we could be truly free.
And bitterness has very serious physical consequences. It adversely alters the chemical balance in our bodies; ulcerative colitis, toxic goiters, and high blood pressure, are only a few of the scores of diseases caused by bitterness. Our resentments call forth certain hormones from the pituitary, adrenal, thyroid, and other glands. Excesses of these hormones can cause diseases in any part of the body.
Bitterness can also adversely affect our facial features. Refusing to forgive, results in physical fatigue and loss of sleep. We may try to hide our resentments, but soon they will also be etched into our eyes and facial muscles as permanent reflections of our inward feelings.
Bitterness is known to affect bone health; the life of the flesh is in the blood, (Leviticus 17:11). But the “factory” for the blood is the marrow of our bones. The health of our bones, therefore, determines the health of our body. Bitterness has a direct and devastating effect upon our bones. (Psalm 32:3; Proverbs 15:30; Proverbs 17:22; Proverbs 14:30; Proverbs 12:4; Ezekiel 32:27)
An inability to love God is the immediate result of hating another person. “If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.” (I John 4:20, 21)
Doubts regarding our relationship with God commonly accompany bitterness. This is quite natural since most of us have prayed the Lord’s Prayer in which we pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
Hence, if we refuse to forgive other people, we are actually asking God not to forgive us. The significance of this point is emphasised by Jesus Christ, “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Matthew 6:14, 15)
Major hindrances to the spiritual development of others may result when we refuse to forgive, especially if we claim to be in a right fellowship with God. Our attitudes of bitterness will repel them from whatever it is that we are trying to convince them of. If we are to allow Christ to live in us we must allow Him to forgive through us.
And depression is one of the most significant consequences of refusing to forgive the people who wrong us. It requires a lot of emotional energy to maintain a grudge. Just as we become weary when our physical energy is exhausted, so we become depressed when our emotional energy is exhausted.
Bitterness and resentment create an “emotional focus” toward the person who offended us. This focus is the chief cause of becoming just like the one we resent. The more we focus on his or her actions toward us, the more we resemble the basic attitudes that prompted their actions.
The moment you start hating someone, you become his or her slave. You can’t enjoy your work any more because he or she controls your thoughts. Your resentments produce too many stress hormones in your body, and you become fatigued after only a few hours of work. The work you formerly enjoyed is now drudgery. You can’t escape his or her tyrannical grasp on your mind. It is for this reason that Solomon wrote, “It is better to be invited to herbs with love, than to a fatted calf with hatred.” (Proverbs 15:17)
Bitterness is all too easily passed on from one generation to another, thus affecting hundreds of descendants. The sins of the parents are visited to the third and fourth generations of those who hold hatred in their heart. (Deuteronomy 5:9)
President of the Socialist Party