Bitter Roots for the Holidays

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; Hebrews 12:15

During the holidays our homes will be filled with family and friends some of whom have had conflicts with each other that have not been resolved. What began as perhaps a few angry words has grown into a bitter conflict that continues to fester. 

Psychology would place bitterness into some kind of anger disorder. Psychology defines bitterness as the absence of being happy. This is interesting because what they want you to think is that the poor bitter person is just unhappy, not filled with anger and hatred and certainly from the psychological perspective the bitter person is not sinning! 

Bitterness is really a type of revenge. The bitter person believes that they are getting even with the one who hurt or offended them.  They think they are justified in their response, and that they are this way because of something that has happened to them.  If they are a victim, then they must not be responsible for their response. 

If someone dares to confront them about their bitterness they may even defend their “right” to be bitter saying things like, “If this happened to you, you would be bitter too!” Everyone but themselves is at fault for their circumstances, and they will typically go to great lengths to prove how “right” they are. 

Folks like these are easy to spot in a crowd; they are the ones lugging the suitcase full of real and perceived injustices, reams of wrongs done to them, and itemized lists of the offenses of other’s. They are very self-righteous about their bitterness as well. They feel very justified in being bitter. 

James MacDonald, Sr. Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel and biblical counselor says that bitterness is a conflict we want to hold on to. I agree and I bet if you think about your own past issues of bitterness, you will see that this is true. It feels very good to mull over those offenses, and each time you do the root of bitterness grows deeper and deeper within your heart.

It is really important that you understand that bitterness arises out of living to please yourself rather than living to glorify the Lord and this causes much trouble. Scripture describes bitterness as a poison! There is no soft soaping the biblical view of bitterness, is there. 

We do not see the bitterness itself as something to feel guilty about because it was something done to us-hence the bitterness is justified.  The definition of bitterness points to the perceived sin of another. 

Why do I say perceived sin? The sin can be imagined or exaggerated.  Can we be bitter against someone for saying something they really did not say or mean? We hear what really is a false report (usually gossip anyway) and now we are bitter against a person for something they did not do! And then to make matters worse, we wait for an apology that will never come because how can he be sorry for an imaginary sin?

A person can remain in bitterness over perceived wrongs because it is they who perceive wrongly. This is a key point: When a person is bitter like this the other person’s guilt is real to them, isn’t it?  They have judged them to be guilty and it matters little emotionally whether they are actually guilty because we tend to assume the worst about others.  We can feel justified in our bitterness if we believe someone else is a bigger sinner than ourselves- thus ignoring exhortations to even love our perceived enemies.

More next time!