Originally published Monday, 17 October 2011.
I remember the first time I felt the sting of betrayal from a friend. The next few weeks after the incident something began to stir inside of me, it wasn’t pretty. I found myself quickly snapping at my kids and husband, I disconnected myself from other friends, and I couldn’t even talk to God about the situation.
I was hurt and angry. And from my anger, bitter roots planted deep in my soul.
So, I wish I had this amazing story to tell you about how I confronted this friend, our relationship was restored and I never dealt with bitterness again.
This isn‘t easy to own, but in this situation, bitterness won.
Over the next few months, I began to discover that bitterness was the ultimate corruptor of my faith. Even though I had been treated unfairly, bitterness was causing a new separation between me and God.
Sometimes those closest to us are the ones we are so easily hurt or offended by. Extending grace to the cashier at the grocery store who miscounted my change seems easier than to a close friend who wounded me.
I had to do something or that one moment of hurt was going to keep defining me.
I wasn’t convinced that God was super concerned with my hurt or feelings. But He was interested, and gently He showed me through His Word how dangerous bitterness can be in our lives.
We can’t disconnect our heart and our thoughts. The two run side-by-side. Being honest with God and ourselves isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, its harder to see the truth than it is to see lies. Living in denial has never worked out to great for anyone.
Psalm 139 encourages us to ask God to examine our thoughts.
So I asked God a hard question, “Has this hurtful situation become an extension of bitterness in my life?”
As I read through Ephesians 4:29-32, I was able to answer that question. Yes.
I had gossiped about this situation, wasn’t able to sleep at night because I was angry, grieved God’s presence in me, and I had no compassion because I had been hurt.
Connecting this ugliness allowed me to see how sin separates us from God and from others.
God continued to show me that being hurt isn’t our sin to own, people are responsible for what they do. But what we do with that hurt, anger, frustration is how the cycle of sin has the potential to continue. Satan knows that bitterness is very effective with followers of Christ, and he will do what he can to keep that cycle going in our lives.
We will always have the choice: stop the cycle or continue the cycle.
I want to stop the cycle in my life and I’m sure you do too. Here are some practical ways to help stop bitterness at its roots:
1. Don’t replay the event over and over in your mind. Its funny how we will quickly forget someone’s kindness, generosity or gentleness in our lives. But I would guess that we could remember exactly where we were, what was said, and maybe even what we were wearing the last time we were offended by someone. Replay God’s goodness not Satan’s deceit. [Colossians 2:3]
2. Stay connected to people who will speak life into you. Sometimes the perspective of another friend can help you sort through the emotions you are experiencing. Avoiding gossip will be challenging as you share your heart, but make it about you and how you are feeling … not so much about the situation. When we are hurt it is tempting to want to just disconnect from everyone but this is really when we need people the most. [Prov 27:6]
3. We need to own the bitterness in our lives. We can’t continue to blame others for our own continued cycle of sin. People will hurt us but we will always have the freedom to forgive. Forgiveness can be tough, but we can do it. [Matthew 6:14-15]
What about you? I love our little community being built here on Crosswalk and I love reading each of your comments. Today maybe we can be that person to speak life to each other.
Are you struggling with bitterness? Are you hurt and afraid of becoming bitter? Are you challenged by these thoughts on bitterness?
The comments are open to all thoughts or questions.
[Congratulations to Robin Braswell! You are the winner of Glynnis’s book. I am sending you a message now. Thank you to everyone who entered!]