For several weeks, my mind has spun around developing this idea into a newsletter, either in one issue or spanning a few weeks. This poison is one that I have struggled with over the years, and with God’s help, I have found healing and freedom. Even with God’s help, I still struggle on occasion with pieces of this very dangerous poison to my soul.
The poison we unconsciously consume, that we drink thinking it will destroy the other person, is hatred/resentment/anger, which we will sum up with the word “bitterness”. Bitterness creeps its way into our hearts and develops outwardly into bursts of rage, anger, and aggression towards those who we feel have hurt us. This anger develops into bitterness and it grows deep roots into our hearts.
The deception behind bitterness is that as it grows deeper into our hearts, we grow angrier and angrier at the other person, becoming aggressive, or passive aggressive, towards them trying to hurt them like they hurt us, but they are unaffected. We feel our actions towards them are stabs at their heart, but in reality, they don’t care what we think in most cases – and if they do care, eventually they will build boundaries to protect themselves. Bitterness is the poison we choose to drink, fully expecting the other person to be hurt. However, we drink bitterness and it destroys our heart and our ability to love.
If left unresolved, bitterness will grow and show itself in every area of our lives, and it will break business deals, friendships, church family relationships, and even biological family relationships (which usually happen first).
There is a remedy for bitterness, and this remedy is known as “forgiveness”. Forgiveness can mean a lot of different things based on how one was taught/raised and the idea of forgiveness can be twisted into becoming something it is not.
So let’s define what forgiveness is so we can clear some of the misconceptions. Forgiveness is acknowledging and releasing someone from the obligation to pay back a debt. In money terms, if I borrowed money from you, and you decided to forgive the debt, I would no longer owe you the money. With this definition, forgiveness is always a ‘present’ action about a ‘past’ event/action/deal.
So how does forgiveness really work against bitterness?
At the core, bitterness demands payback for a past hurt, and whether the demand is a ‘simple’ apology or something given in return, bitterness works by creating a debt/debtor relationship in the bitter person’s mind. Forgiveness as a solution sounds very simple in writing, but it is infinitely harder to do.
The problem with the hurt in a bitter person’s heart is that if we dig into what it would take to satisfy the perceived debt, the demands are impossible to meet. Nothing can turn back the clock and reverse the actual pain from being inflicted and nothing can bring back the time that was lost between the hurt and the forgiveness. In reality, a simple apology is always only a small part of bitterness’s demands, never the whole. Bitterness is a present problem locked up in the pain and hurt from the past, and since the past cannot be changed, releasing the debt is necessary.
How do we forgive?
At its core, the only way to truly forgive is to release the person who harmed us from the obligation to pay us back. Sometimes we must release ourselves and accept a bad decision that we made that happened in the past so we can move on. Other times, we must release God for allowing something bad to happen in our life.
For forgiveness to be lasting, it should be for specific hurts from a specific person that caused a specific set of emotions. It may ‘feel’ great initially to blanket forgive everyone and move forward, but blanket forgiveness is harder for our mind to quantify than specifics, and the benefits don’t last as long because our minds will stir up hurts that we had previously forgotten that can trip us up.
The actual prayer you can pray is flexible as long as it includes a specific hurt, from a specific person, and it causing you to feel specific emotions. The real power in the prayer comes from symbolically handing those hurts, that person, and all the pain over to Jesus, who paid the price that we deserved for ‘hurting’ (sinning against) God.
It is helpful to list the people, the specific hurts, and the emotions on a piece of paper beforehand so that when you begin to pray, you are able to be more specific because this will be an emotional prayer. It is often helpful to pray ‘with’ someone you trust, so that you can feel their support, encouragement, and friendship when your prayer is finished.
I can say personally that forgiveness is one of the hardest things that I have ever been challenged with in my life, and accepting the challenge has been the most freeing experience I have encountered. The healing of my heart took some time, and it didn’t feel great initially, but a huge weight was lifted, and that was the beginning of a new life and a renewed walk with Jesus for me.
It was hard, it was painful, and it was WORTH IT!
P.S. Questions, Comments, Feedback? Join the conversation below!