poison to the soul

What a strange thing bitterness is! It breaks in on us when we need it least, when we’re down and in desperate need of all our freedom, ability, and energy to get back up. And what strange things bitterness can do to us. It slowly sets, like a permanent plaster cast, perhaps protecting the wearer from further pain but ultimately holding the sufferer rigid in frozen animation. Feelings and responses have turned to concrete. Bitterness is paralysis.

A young man, falsely accused, condemned and penalized by his high school principal, turns sullen, angry, bitter. His faith in all justice and authority dies. He will not forgive.

A girl, betrayed by a fellow she trusted, is forced, becomes pregnant, then turns bitter and withdrawn. Her faith in all humanity ends. She cannot forgive.

A woman, deserted by her husband, left to be both mother and father to their two sons, turns angry at life- at the whole universe. Her faith in God and everything good has ended. She did not forgive.

Bitterness is such a potent paralysis of mind, soul and spirit that it can freeze our reason, emotions and all our responses.

David Augsburger, The Freedom of Forgiveness

Let it Go

You've suffered unjustly. Passed over for the promotion. Mistreated by a spouse. Disrespected by a co-worker, fellow student, or even a member of your church.

Perhaps you lie in bed at night imagining detailed conversations with someone who's wronged you. You daydream about getting back at them. You conspire, hoping to discover ways to embarrass those who've treated you unfairly.

Let go of your bitterness and desire for retaliation.

Romans 12:19 says, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: " Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

It is not your job to exact revenge. That's God's responsibility. And he does not need our help doing it. If you hoard hatred and bitterness toward those who have hurt you, the injury will only deepened and hurt you even more. Those around you will suffer as well. Bitterness is a poison that spills over into our relationships. Don’t allow the people who have hurt you keep on doing so.

Stephen Goforth

A taste for the bitters

Why do we accept bitter feelings? Why do we nourish acidic emotions and slowly allow them to eat away our attitudes, motives, and even our spirits? The bitters come in so many varieties.

There’s the I’ve-been-used-and-abused brand of bitterness that lets us stew in our own anger juices. It grows when we have no opportunity to vent these hostilities against the person who has hurt us. As a substitute, we take it out on ourselves.

There’s the everyone’s-against-me-nobody-cares kind of bitterness that grow into a full-blown martyr complex. Complete with self-pity and all the extras.

Bitterness can form from a sense of I’ve-been-neglected-forgotten-and-overlooked-a routine especially real when someone feels trapped in the house all day long with whining toddlers, endless chores, and a spouse who is out all day what appears to be an endless fascinating world.

Or it may be the blind, curse-it-all-I’d-rather-be-dead bitterness that follows tragedy, grief, or failure. We withdraw into ourselves in despair.

Our world is infested these bitters and unless we build a support system externally and internally we may find them all too often corrupting our palates so the whole of life tastes bitter.

Based on a passage from Gene Van Note’s Building Self-Esteem

the Cycle of Bitterness

Bitterness leads to a helpless, hopeless cycle around our distasteful feelings. Like the child first learning to ride a bike, we keep moving without knowing how to stop without crashing. We pedal on and on, afraid to quit, yet wishing desperately for someone to come and break our ring of futility.

Only forgiveness can do that. Only forgiveness can disrupt our endlessly dull orbit in the same senseless circle around our bitter feelings to set us free.

Stephen Goforth

In the grip of bitterness

During my hitch in the Marine Corps, my wife and I rented a studio apartment in San Francisco from a man crippled by a World War 2 injury. Captured at Wake Island and later confined for years in China, he was left partially paralyzed when an enemy solider struck hi with a rifle butt.

When I visited with this landlord, he'd tell me one story after another of how barbarically he'd been treated. With vile language and intense emotion, he spoke of the tortures he'd endured and of his utter hatred for the Japanese. Here was a man who had been horribly wronged-without question. The constant misery and pain he lived with could not be measured. My heart went out to him.

But there was another factor which made his existence even more lamentable. Our landlord had become a bitter man. Even though he was years removed from the war.. even though he had been safely released from the concentration camp and was now able to carry on physically... even though he and his wife owned a lovely dwelling and had a comfortable income, the crippled an was bound by the grip of bitterness. He was still fighting a battle that should have ended years before. In a very real sense, he was still in prison.

His bitterness manifested itself in intense prejudice, an acrid tongue and an everyone's out-to-get-me attitude. I am convinced that he was far more miserable by 1957 than he had been in 1944. There is no torment like the inner torment of an unforgiving spirit. It refuses to be soothed, it refuses to be healed, it refuses to forget.

Chuck Swindoll
Killing Giants: Pulling Thorns