Evidences of Bitterness
Last Sunday we talked about bitterness and the way it can take hold of our hearts if we are not careful.
Here are some evidences of bitterness shared originally by Lou Priolo in his booklet entitled "Bitterness: the Root that Pollutes".
- Difficulty in resolving conflicts – Trying to resolve conflicts with someone you harbor business like trying to build a skyscraper without first laying a solid foundation. The bitterness will doom the project before it gets off the ground. – This grieves the Holy Spirit.
- Acts of vengeance – Whether it takes the form of a back-biting verbal comment to another, a spiteful remark to the offenders face, or some kind of physical altercation, taking one’s own vengeance is a sure sign of bitterness.
- Withdrawal – When we give our offenders the “silent treatment” or the “cold shoulder” we are likewise being vindictive. We are saying (essentially), “Look, I’ve tried to tell you over and over again how much it bugs me when you do (don’t do) that. But you just don’t get it. So, the only thing I know to do to show you hwo much you’ve hurt me is to gie you a little taste of your own medicine. When I think you have an inkling of how much you’ve hurt me – perhaps… - I’ll start talking to you again!”
- Outbursts of anger - We have all heard this or even expressed this before, " I have had it… up to HERE! BLAAHH!" This grieves the Holy Spirit.
- Subtle attacks – biting sarcasm, ironic intonations, snide remarks, mean-spirited joking, scornful replies are all generated by a bitter, resentful heart.
- Condescending communication – Speaking to your offender as if he or she were a child or in some way beneath you is not only a possible indicator of bitterness, but contrary to Phil. Call to see others more highly than yourself (Phil.2:3) and contrary to all the riches of grace that you have received in Christ.
- Criticism – a critical, condemning, judgmental attitude may indicate a problem with resentment. Frequently a motive of retaliation can bring critical words. This grieves the Holy Spirit.
- Suspicion and distrust – When bitterness causes a breakdown in communication (as it commonly does), the parties become suspicious of each other. Small offenses that would be dismissed with a “He didn’t mean anything by that – I’ve done it myself a hundred times” or an, “Oh, he is just having a bad day” kind of thought are interpreted with less charitable motives.
- Intolerance – Similarly bitterness disposes us to not put up with our offender’s idiosyncratic (non sinful) behavior. Resentment makes mountains out or molehills. (cf. Eph 4:2!) • Hypersensitivity – Treating a pinprick as though it were a knife through ones heart may likewise be indicative of a bitter spirit. Pround individuals are especially prone to fall into this snare. “You haven’t offended any ole person, you’ve offended ME. And my anger is not so easily appeased.” This grieves the Holy Spirit.
- Impatience – Patience involves being able to keep a biblical perspective about our troubles by no magnifying a tolerable trial so that it appears to our minds as an intolerable one. Bitterness causes us to lose this biblical perspective. It magnifies forgivable offenses so that they seem unforgivable in our minds. And it tempts us to resort to unbiblical means of delivering ourselves from the trial rather than waiting on God to work through our peacemaking attempts to resolve the conflict biblically.
- Disrespect – If the person an whom we are biter is an authority figure, our contempt for that person will eventually make its way out of our hearts and into our mouths in the form of irreverence. • Rebellion against authority – Rebellion hardly ever occurs apart from bitterness. It begins with a seed of hurt, then sprouts into bitterness, matures into subbornness (insubordination) and then develops into outright refusal to heed authority.
- Misuse of authority – When bitterness towards a suborndinate is in the heart of an authority, it can produce a domineering, dictatorial or tyrannical attitude that demands needless exactions of obedience. This grieves the Holy Spirit.
- Depression – After continually running around a track, you and I would become ultimately depleted of our supplies of energy and physically exhausted. Our strength would be gone from our bodies. The same principle holds true on an emotional level. It requires vast amounts of emotional energy to maintain a grudge. After several laps around the unforgiveness track (several days of bitterness), most of us will have depleted (zapped) our emotional energy and become emotionally exhausted (i.e. depressed).
- Remembering with great specificity the details of an offense – Bitterness eulogizes the particulars. It is actually possible, by replaying the offense over and over again in our minds, to fabricate imaginary details into event – details that never actually happened.
We have received so many spiritual riches in Christ (Eph. 1:3, 7-8). When you and I give way to bitterness we are living as spiritual misers; He has given us so much more! If you see these things in your life – it is very likely you have been grieving the Holy Spirit in cultivating a heart of bitterness. What is the way out? See the work of Jesus afresh! It doesn’t mean you have not been hurt. It doesn’t mean that you glibly move on with life. It does mean you rest in the provisions in the Gospel to deal with those heartaches in a new way (Eph. 4:32)! Seek to meditate on Christ's work for you, His forgiveness and grace. Let His work and grace inspire you and instruct you to let go of the bitterness in your heart.
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