Bitterness: Turn It into Better-ness!

Dr. Lucy Ann MollFor Those Giving Help, For Those Seeking Hope2 Comments


You can learn how to kill bitterness. 

You can exchange bitterness for “betterness,” says biblical counselor and teacher Sherry Allchin, M.A. Chances are you know the look of bitterness. It …

  • sours your face, may raise your blood pressure, and contribute to other unwelcome physical ailments.
  • wards off friends, coworkers, even family when you let it out.
  • eats you up inside, turning you into a snap dragon.

What Is Bitterness?

Bitterness is anger under wraps. It’s testy, irritable, rude, and critical. It’s a disagreeable attitude swimming in biting, snarky comments, an attitude dripping self-righteousness and self-pity. It grows like black mold in the heart.

Often a person with a critical spirit holds dear to prickly bitterness. This bitterness reflects a heart full of anger and strife. This is what the writer of Hebrews said about bitterness.

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, ESV

The Cause of Bitterness

Bitterness has its roots in a wrong belief that your rights — real or perceived — have been stomped on and kicked across the room. Or worse.

I remember my confusion and hurt — and bitterness toward my husband — several months and years after our daughter Laura was born. We had agreed I’d work part-time from home as a freelance journalist while he worked 9 to 5 at his office.
The problem started when I figured wrongly that he could read my mind and know that when he was home we’d share normal household duties like setting the table, washing dishes, tossing in a load of laundry, and changing diapers. And he figured wrongly that I’d be a mom like his mother, and he’d be a dad like his father.

My wrong desire: It’s only fair that after we’ve both put in long days, I should get a break from the baby and my husband should know this desire of mine without my expressing it.

Eventually I aired my feeling but still felt bitter. How come?
I didn’t get my way. It was the same old same old.

I did the dishes and diapers and dust pans in the evenings while I rehearsed all the “bad” things my husband failed to do. Rather than thanking God for a great husband who provided and protected our family and who spent Saturday mornings with Laura so I could do whatever I wanted, I held tight to prickly bitterness that began with a hurt and a wrong belief.

If you do not respond biblically to the hurt (this would involve forgiving the sin, overlooking the sin, or realizing the ‘offense’ was not wrong in God’s eyes) — you may begin to rehearse the offense in your mind, reviewing it over and over again,” says Lou Priolo in Getting a Grip. “The practice of continually reviewing and imputing (charging your offender with the fault or the responsibility for) the offense violates 1 Corinthians 13:5 (‘love does not keep a running account of evil’).

My new right desire: This wasn’t how I pictured mothering. Because the Lord is in control and I believe he is good and trustworthy, I submit to Christ’s rule in my life and want his plan because his plan brings God glory and is best.

Bitterness Dies

The moment I replaced my wrong belief with a right belief, I exchanged bitterness for “betterment” and let go of the whole bitter mess. You can kill your this nasty emotion too.

Here are 4 suggestions:

1. Acknowledge your bitterness.
Admit that you feel bitter. This emotion is like a warning light. It lets you know something is wrong.
Ask God to help you get rid of your bitter feelings.
2. Determine the root of your bitterness.

First, name the hurt or wrong.

What wrong belief did you cling to?

3. Change your thinking and your actions.

What is a right belief that replaces the wrong belief?

Ask God to help you act on the right belief.
How do you expect your actions to change?
4. Obey God.
God instructs his children to forgive one another as Christ forgave them. Ask forgiveness from the people you hurt by your bitterness.
Thank God for his awesome gift of grace and forgiveness.

When you choose a wrong desire based on a wrong belief, bitterness is likely. God’s desire is for each of us to choose what he desires according to his plans and purposes.

When you and I align our desires/motivations/wants/beliefs with God’s, then we choose the better thing, not the bitter thing. Our godly desires lead to “betterness” as we get free of the whole bitter mess.
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2 Comments on “Bitterness: Turn It into Better-ness!”

  1. Pingback: RESOURCES: Forgiveness | Counseling One Another

  2. Pingback: Biblical Counseling Center | Is There Hope for My Marriage? - Biblical Counseling Center

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