When hurt turns to bitterness, how can you untangle yourself before it becomes messy? How can you check your heart and dig out the roots?
I never would’ve guessed it could happen.
Not only did I consider her a good friend, but she was a sister in Christ.
So when I learned what she’d said? What she’d done? The shock was staggering, and the wound went deep.
And I doubted I could ever recover.
I cried over it for several days. Okay, make that several weeks.
Then eventually, as the tears came less readily, I began to think about what had actually occurred. I just couldn’t help wondering why and how?
It was an honest search for answers that I felt I deserved. Some kind of explanation for what had gone on.
Now I wish I could say that it stopped there: an understandable mulling over the possibilities.
But it didn’t.
Because the more I thought about it, the more it started to consume me.
My kids would be talking to me, and I’d realized I hadn’t heard a word they’d said. I was too busy having an imaginary conversation with my former friend.
I’d be making dinner, silently and repeatedly going over and over the events while I stirred the spaghetti.
I’d wake up at night and rehearse what had happened and what should be done about it.
And somewhere in there, without me even realizing it, this very real pain began to take root.
A root of bitterness.
Entangled in bitterness
I don’t know if you’ve ever struggled with this kind of experience. Maybe it wasn’t the wound of a friend. Perhaps it’s your husband who deeply hurt your feelings (more than once). Or your pastor. Or your mother-in-law.
So what started as a genuine hurt grew into something more than that—something bigger and more powerful.
And without knowing it, you were tangled up in the roots of bitterness.
So what do you do then? How can you “untangle” yourself?
That’s certainly the question I had to ask myself in my own situation.
How do I get out of this trap?
Getting Rid of the Root of Bitterness
1. REMEMBER how much you’ve been forgiven.
One of my daughters shared a sermon clip on her social media that talked about the unfathomable grace that Christ has shown us. Two minutes into it, and I was deeply convicted. When I think of how much I’ve been forgiven, how can I not, in turn, forgive others?
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:32)
2. STOP dwelling on it.
Seriously. This is where I see that I got into trouble. I kept going over the offense again and again in my mind. But the Bible clearly instructs us to put away all bitterness. That’s on us. So the way I look at it, not only is it our responsibility—it’s our opportunity to put it aside. Just let it go.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Eph. 4:31)
3. START thinking about good things.
Don’t you think it’s easier to stop thinking about something when you replace it with something else? Exactly. So write down a list if you have to, but come up with those things which are true, right, and lovely. Make a firm decision to focus only on those things.
Then watch that old, ugly offense fade away in the distance, and lose its power over you.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Phil. 4:8)
So if you’re wondering what happened to that friend of mine? The one who brought me so much grief?
Nothing. At least so far.
I still hope and pray that someday the Lord will soften her heart and restore our relationship.
But in the meanwhile, I’m grateful to be free from the root of bitterness and that it no longer has a hold on me.
And I’m hoping the same for you too, my friend.
In His grace,