Is there a problem?
Are you bitter? That’s really not a productive question because most of the time we are not able to recognize or admit if we have a problem with bitterness.
So I guess a better question is has anyone ever described you or accused you of being bitter? That is a more revealing question to get to the truth of the matter.
Bitterness reminds me of a distorted view we can have of ourselves, almost like an eating disorder has on someone’s self-image. It is very difficult to actually see the truth of the reality staring at us in the face.
But like a mirror will do for someone suffering from anorexia/bulimia, it may be deceptive to the person who is ill as they view their own image but it is glaringly obvious to everyone else.
Bitterness is the same way- easy to deny but difficult to hide.Bitterness- easy to deny but difficult to hide. Click To Tweet
What should be our image?
Early on in Jesus’ ministry, He begins to describe the expectation He has for those He has called as disciples, which includes us as well. As He teaches through these lessons, they offer two obvious advantages.
First, they inform HOW we can be blessed. Secondly, they naturally portray an image we will bear as we do so. The Beatitudes not only instruct us, they should describe us. Matthew 5:5 in the Amplified Bible explains,
The Beatitudes not only instruct us, they should describe us. Click To Tweet
“Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.
No one would argue against the opportunity to be blessed. That’s a given.
We all want a blessing, but are we willing to do what it actually takes to receive it?
Christ is graciously explaining how we can experience inner peace, spiritual security, and lives worthy of respect. Sign us up, right?
But then He goes on to say HOW TO experience this blissful state. We need to be “gentle” in order for this to happen. Another word translated for gentle in other Bible translations included “meek” or “humble”.
What does that mean?
I enjoyed looking up this verse in several translations to gain a more thorough understanding of what Jesus is trying to convey. The Amplified Bible really helped by describing it as “kind-hearted, sweet-spirited, and self-controlled”.
That I can chew on.
As I pondered this definition, it really conveyed the demeanor of Christlikeness. He actually described Himself this way later on in Matthew 11:28-30 AMP.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
Jesus calls us to learn from Him, to be LIKE Him, and when we are gentle, humble and meek, we are being Christlike. Kind-hearted, sweet-spirited, and self-controlled further describes the character of Christ we are to portray as we seek to shine our light to a lost world.
Is this what describes me? No, not as much as I would like to believe.
What about you?
What is the opposite of this?
As a person who loves words, I am always looking for greater understanding of what something means by also looking at what it DOESN’T mean.
Merriam-Webster had defined meek as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment”, which we recognize as being so very Christlike. So this naturally made me think of the opposite, which is someone FULL of resentment.
In other words, bitter.
Someone stewing in bitterness is NOT going to appear to others as being “kind-hearted, sweet-spirited, and self-controlled”. Truthfully, such a person exudes just the opposite.
If you have ever been around someone struggling with bitterness, you know the anger and intensity brewing just beneath the surface of their socially appropriate demeanor.
Bitterness soon takes over the gentleness and reasonableness once exhibited in such a person. They become captive to the “wrongs” in their life.
How I became bitter
I know this all too well.
There was a time in 2013 when we were enduring some painful trials as a family. I felt helpless and truthfully, betrayed on several levels. Although I readily understood God was Sovereign over all our circumstances, I began to grow bitter over the time it was taking to endure these unresolved problems.
It was so subtle at first. But like a disease, it began to grow more prevalent.
I would say I was submitted to what God was allowing. But over time, I realized I was not accepting of it. I knew there was nothing I could do about the trial which is why I “submitted”. But slowly, I began to sense an “edge” to my demeanor. Underneath my socially appropriate Christian demeanor, I was stewing.
I began to notice the change in me and it convicted me to the core! I repented, seeking to deal with the bitterness that was slowing making my heart hard, cynical and angry.
How can we detect our own bitterness?
Since it can be so deceiving to detect any sign of bitterness in our own lives, here are some questions to help us self-examine.
- Are you feeling intense, ongoing, fresh hurt from events in your past? Is what happened years ago, months ago, still feeling like it happened yesterday?
- Do feelings of anger and pain describe the majority of your time each day or is it joy and gratefulness?
- Do you replay in your mind regularly what happened to you in your past?
- Is there a mental list of people who have wronged that you try to avoid now?
- Is there a trail of broken relationships in your life? Do you feel wronged by friends, relatives and immediate family alike?
- Are you having trouble maintaining friendships/relationships because everyone keeps hurting or disappointing you?
- Do you ponder the sins of others more often than your own sins against God and others?
- Do you rejoice in the trials being experienced by another who has hurt you in the past?
- Is it normal for you to spend much of your time alone and isolated?
- Are you getting into arguments with others on regular basis?
- Do others disagree with you about the details of past events?
- Do most others seem wrong while you alone are “right”?
- Would you describe yourself as a lovable person?
- If you are around others, are you inwardly looking for and finding fault with them?
- If someone has apologized to you in the past for what they have done to hurt you, are you still regularly thinking about the offense?
- Do you feel better about yourself by dwelling on what is wrong with others?
What have we to lose if we don’t repent of our bitterness?
Just like the person suffering from an eating disorder when they don’t realize how obvious their condition is to other people, someone struggling with bitterness is often unaware of how they come across to others. We can be blind to the level of anger/resentment we readily display.
This, in turn, can end up interfering with our sincere desire for Christlikeness. We may be genuine in our efforts to portray Christ to a lost and hurting world, but much of what surfaces in us ends up compromising this righteous endeavor. Judgment and condemnation of others overshadow the gentle, loving nature of Christ in us.
We can say all day long that we aren’t bitter, but the testimony from our actions will declare louder than any words the real truth.Bitterness is a testimony contradicting our Christlikeness. Click To Tweet
No perceived wrong done to us is worth that. May we truly be like Christ as we forgive and let go of the resentment keeping us from being gentle. The blessed life is what we have to gain and a conflicting testimony what we have to lose.