Bitterness is a powerful pill and once it has been swallowed it not only embitters the swallower, it soon slops all over any-and-everyone who gets near. Like acid, it’s corrosive and destructive, eating up individuals and families. Hebrews 12:14-15 warns: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Bitter people are not peacemakers. In fact, they view such folks as wimpy. They justify their bitterness by telling themselves that it takes strength to “tell it like it is.” The truth is, such lashing out is only the sign of an immature and graceless heart. Jim Wilson describes them well:
Not only are they bitter, they enjoy being bitter. They somehow like it, and they feed on it. They wouldn’t know what to do if they got rid of it; they wouldn’t have a purpose for living….
It is easy to recognize when somebody is bitter. You can see it in the eyes and in the lines of the face―even if the person is young. You can see it in their mouth, you can see it when they’re smiling or laughing. They are bitter and you can see it. You can hear it in the tone of their voices. You can hear it when they protest that they are not bitter. The bitterness is central and pervades everything.
As bitter people follow this self-destructive course they become more and more isolated and are left to stew in their own caustic juices. This is largely a self-imposed hermitage where the victim can nurse their bitterness and indulge in their victimization. “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment” (Pr. 18:1). Moreover, the need to feed the monster inevitably leads to newly imagined offences along with exaggerated and false claims. They retain every offence and embellish it to boot. These distortions and lies are then spread to others, multiplying the bitter fruit until few, if any, dare come close lest they too become the objects of scorn. We find ourselves tip-toeing around the bitter for fear of jostling their cup. They poison the well for everyone so that many relationships are affected.
Perhaps you would like to help a bitter person in your life. Maybe you have reached out repeatedly only to be snapped at or bitten. Nevertheless, you long for peace and forgiveness. As far as you’re able you have worked to be at peace. Nevertheless, it takes two parties to have reconciliation. There’s a time to “shake off the dust from your feet” (Mark 10:14) and to move on. Praying for them is appropriate, but Paul also instructs: “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11). Self-condemnation is, indeed, an extra bitter pill to swallow.