How to Stop Feeling Bitter and Start Feeling Better

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Have you ever noticed yourself bitterly complaining about someone or something? This episode is for you.

This morning I was talking with my husband Brad and I found myself complaining about someone and their behavior.

Now I felt that this person had been unfair in their criticism of me, and my complaining felt totally justified – but it’s also out of character for me to complain like that and I felt an almost instant ‘check’ from the Holy Spirit.

And then when I opened my bible, he directed me straight to a passage dealing with bitterness.

It’s easy to find ourselves feeling bitter or offended about circumstances where people have treated us unfairly.

When my ex-husband and I first separated, and we’re going back 9 years here, I was very aware that I was the first one of my close friends to go through this process although I did know of a few people from my extended friendship circle who had been through the breakdown of relationships involving children.

I was very keen to avoid the obvious pitfalls, so I asked one of my good friends to connect me with a few of her friends who were single mothers so I could find out from them whether there were any common mistakes to avoid and any suggestions for how to help my kids navigate this new world we now found ourselves in.

Remember that this was back before the days when everyone was connected on Facebook and you couldn’t just easily message people whose phone numbers you didn’t have.

My good friend, who is also one of my Christian friends, warned me at the time – that I would need to try and look past the bitterness when I spoke with these people, and make sure it didn’t rub off on me.

At the time I thought, wow, that was an interesting warning for my friend to give me.

So over the next few weeks I caught up with some of these women, just to learn from their experience and find out if there was anything that they would recommend I do differently.

They gave me some amazing advice, just the sort of stuff that you only learn if you’ve been through something first hand, and really helped me out at the time.

But something I noticed in the background, sitting behind their words, was exactly what my friend had warned me to look past – a bitterness and a cynicism towards their ex-partners, and in some cases, towards men in general.

With some, it was clearly evident in their words, but with others it was almost undetectable, sort of wafty and very much in the background – but it was still there.

While this sort of bitterness might seem like the totally reasonable fallout of a relationship breakdown, particularly when there are kids involved, I came away with the feeling that I didn’t want to become bitter in the way that these women had. I didn’t want it ‘rubbing off’ on me.

In the bible, Paul describes bitterness as having a root like a plant – and in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 15 he warns to ‘make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many’.

It’s interesting that Paul describes bitterness as a root. When you think about it, roots grow below the ground, unseen, and they spread out into complex structures.

If you’ve ever tried to get rid of an invasive weed plant species from your garden, you know how hard it can be to get rid of all of the roots.

Even when you pull the whole plant out, if you leave even a small part of the root in the ground the whole plant can re-grow.

Deuteronomy chapter 32 verse 32 describes grapes filled with poison and clusters with bitterness – which is certainly not the sort of fruit that I want growing inside me.

So I decided then and there that I was going to do whatever was necessary to make sure that a root of bitterness was not able to take hold of me, even though my circumstances were similar to the women that I had been speaking to.

Frankly, I already had more than enough trouble in my life, and I definitely didn’t want to be responsible for poisoning anyone else’s heart.

So how do you cure bitterness?

How do you get rid of every last part of that root, so there’s no chance of it regrowing.

We falsely think that bitterness is a feeling, and the best way to get rid of it is to focus on feelings of sweetness – but when bitterness is a root growing within us, thinking sweet thoughts and being kind to others is like pulling the plant up and leaving the root behind.

The only way to get rid of the whole root for good is through forgiveness.

Ephesians chapter 4 verse 31 tells us to ‘get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.

Verse 32 provides the alternative, saying ‘instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you’.

This morning the Holy Spirit used my complaining to show me that I was holding bitterness towards someone, and the root of bitterness that had grown in response to the offense I had been holding was already producing the sort of rotten fruit that, frankly, I don’t want any part of.

It was a prompt for me to make sure that I forgive this person – and that I continue in an attitude of forgiveness, not just forgiving them once, but forgiving them every time I am prompted to until this particular root of bitterness is completely torn out of me.

If you’ve noticed yourself complaining about people lately, whether it’s because of things that have happened to you or its because of things that those people have done to somebody you care about, then I want to encourage you today to make it a priority to forgive that person, and keep forgiving them until you’re certain that the root of bitterness that’s been growing up inside you is totally gone.

You’ll feel so much better, you won’t risk poisoning the people who are close to you, and you’ll be free of distraction and able to step into your own calling.

Until next time, blue skies!

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