Overcoming bitterness

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, February 16, 2014

We all have known someone who holds onto hurt and buries it deep inside and refuses to let it go or forgive the person who has offended them. Offenses will happen to us and it is up to us how we handle them. Do we swallow the bitter pill and let it grow or do we shrug it off like water off a duck’s back?
Bitterness is a cancer that left unchecked will plant itself in your spirit and manifest in emotions and finally in your physical body.
All bitterness starts with an offense whether it be committed intentionally or not. The offended person then harbors anger and resentment over the perceived slight. What begins to fester is an ugly emotion that kills the joy in your life and shows in your emotions and outbursts toward others.
Bitter is defined in the following ways;
1. Having or being a taste that is sharp, acrid, and unpleasant.
2. Causing a sharply unpleasant, painful, or stinging sensation; harsh.
3. Difficult or distasteful to accept, admit, or bear.
4. Proceeding from or exhibiting strong animosity.
5. Resulting from or expressive of severe grief, anguish, or disappointment.
6. Marked by resentment or cynicism.
I have known many people in my life that could be defined by one or more of those definitions. The truly devastating thing about defining a person in those terms is that they have the power to change that definition. Usually, they are too bitter to recognize that fact and it will only further complicate things.
I have heard that there are two constants in life, death and taxes. However, I think there is a third and that is to be offended. The Bible says in James 3:2 that only a perfect man will not offend in word.
Forgiveness is the answer to bitterness and letting go of the harbored pain is the way to begin. Author Ken Crockett said “Bitterness is the offspring of an unhealed wound—whose parents are unforgiveness and time.” Time heals all wounds, but not when you harbor unforgiveness.
Dealing with a bitter person is difficult and one that I am still trying to master. At times I want to lash out, but that only compounds the difficulty. Fighting fire with fire is not always the best solution.
My pastor truly has a gift for dealing with bitter people. He has a great capacity for forgiveness that I admire. He gives freely of his time and is compassionate to even those who have offended him. I can not go anywhere with him without people, who I’ve never seen in church, coming up and saying “that’s my pastor.” He smiles and encourages them and invites them back to church. He is a shining example of how a Christian should live.

Paul Barry is managing editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached by email at paul.barry@vicksburgpost.com or by phone at 601-636-4545 ext. 123