In my ministry I am often called upon to minister to women that struggle deeply with anger and bitterness. The reasons for anger and bitterness vary greatly. However, one thing that is not variable is the result of bitterness.
Bitterness begins with anger. The anger can be a result of being hurt in some way by another. I see married women who are bitter in their marriages, and I see single women who are bitter because they are unmarried. I see teens who are bitter because of issues with their parents, and young adults who are bitter because life is not giving them the fair shakes they feel they deserve.
People in each of these groups have attempted to deal with their hurt and anger in some way and often that way was not biblical. The most common way of dealing with hurt is to try and ignore it and pretend it does not hurt. Stuffing these hurt feelings is not advisable because often the hurt doesn’t stop and multiple hurts pile up within and anger and bitterness are the result.
When you are hurt, the way to deal with it is first to ask yourself if the emotion or feeling is legitimate. Be honest with yourself and ask questions such as, “Am I being oversensitive?” “Did he/she intend to be hurtful?” Sadly, sometimes people do intend to hurt us, especially by their words. If you are not being oversensitive then you must learn how to biblically deal with times when you will be hurt, or bitterness will be the result.
Bitterness is unresolved, unforgiven anger and resentment. When a person is hurt and that hurt is not addressed biblically we become angry. The anger is a result of being denied justice or equity in the situation. We want to be heard and we want our feelings validated. This is not unusual, who doesn’t want to be consoled when they are hurt? When it seems that no one cares about our hurts we become angry. It does go back to what we believe about our personal rights as well.
If I believe that I have a right to something and that right is violated then I am going to be angry. This makes perfect sense until we realize that many of the things we consider our rights are only “rights” by our perception. I may perceive I possess a right to have something I am not truly entitled to. For example, while I believe it is my right to be appreciated I have nothing to base that on other than my own system of values. When other people don’t appear to appreciate me I will become hurt and angry and then have a desire to retaliate, or manipulate people or situations to be appreciated. If my desire for appreciation is still not met I will become angry for I am not getting something I want!
When anger is allowed to fester and a person ruminates on their hurt the sad result is bitterness. Bitterness then, is the result of anger changing from an experience to a belief. Bitterness is seething and constant. Bitter people carry very heavy burdens as do angry people, and bitter people tend to “infect” those around them as angry people do as well.
Tomorrow we shall look at what bitterness looks like in our lives.