Few things rot a life like bitterness …
Did you know it’s possible to develop the poisonous attitude of the mind and heart called “bitterness” over something you have done?
We tend to think that bitterness is a possible result from being wronged by others. But we can become bitter toward others from our own actions toward them!
Dr. Anthony Evans shares in his book, “Guiding Your Family in a Misguided World,” the following story:
One day, two monks were walking through the countryside. They were on their way to another village to help bring in the crops. As they walked, they spied an old woman sitting at the edge of a river. She was upset because there was no bridge, and she could not get across on her own. The first monk kindly offered, “We will carry you across if you would like.”
“Thank you,” she said gratefully, accepting their help. So the two men joined hands, lifted her between them and carried her across the river. When they got to the other side, they set her down, and she went on her way.
After they had walked another mile or so, the second monk began to complain.
“Look at my clothes,” he said. “They are filthy from carrying that woman across the river. And my back still hurts from lifting her. I can feel it getting stiff.”
The first monk just smiled and nodded his head.
A few more miles up the road, the second monk griped again.
“My back is hurting me so badly, and it is all because we had to carry that silly woman across the river! I cannot go any farther because of the pain.”
The first monk looked down at his partner, now lying on the ground, moaning.
“Have you wondered why I am not complaining?” he asked. “Your back hurts because you are still carrying the woman. But I set her down five miles ago.”
Many of us are like that second monk in our interactions with others. We refuse to let go of some interaction, experience, or something from our past, playing it over and over again in our minds until it becomes debilitating … to us! Scripture clearly teaches us to avoid thinking and behaving in such a way …
“Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many,” Hebrews 12:14-15.
Bitterness is extraordinarily dangerous because it is a “root” problem. In one of his sermons, pastor Bill Hybels stated, “Fifty years ago industrialists thought they could just bury toxic waste and it would go away. We have since learned it doesn’t just go away. It makes trouble. It leaks into the water table, contaminates crops, and kills animals.”
In like manner, bitterness isn’t something we can just bury, thinking it will go away. It won’t just go away. It will make trouble! For that reason, the Apostle Paul tells us to rid ourselves of any bitterness in our lives and instructs us how we should live with everyone …
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you,” Ephesians 4:31-32.
Bitterness is a place devoid of grace or mercy. Such thinking and behavior couldn’t be further than Christ’s example for us, God’s will for us, and how He has responded to our rebellion against Him. And so Paul directs us to eject bitterness in its entirety from our lives.
Have you completely rid yourself of any root of bitterness in your life? If you have allowed yourself to foster bitterness toward someone, you need to confess it and repent of it and allow the Holy Spirit to change your thinking and your heart. Are you willing to do that today?