“It ain’t heavy if you don’t pick it up.”
It sneaks up on you. Fine one day, you find yourself changed a short time later.
You may have heard the story of how to boil a frog: Put him in cool water and slowly heat it up. By the time the little guy’s aware how hot the water’s become, he’s halfway-cooked. Works every time.
Bitterness is like that. A friend, spouse, coworker, family member, even stranger hurts you. You get angry (rightfully so)–but don’t release it. So it hangs on.
Hebrews calls it a “bitter root”, and if it isn’t uprooted it blooms into a full-blown tree bearing poisonous fruit. And what else does Heebs say bitter roots do? They defile many.
We’ve all been the unfortunate recipient of a bitter person:
- The family member who always explodes over (minor) issues
- That man at work who brings his trademark derogatory attitude and snide comments with him each day (yay!)
- The pastor who vents from the pulpit and becomes hardened, ungracious, even judgmental (not in my experience, by the way)
- The bitter ex-boyfriend/girlfriend who just can’t move on/get over “what they did to me”
Maybe we’ve played some of these roles ourselves.
Forgiving is tough. People say or do things that affect us for years, decades even.
- Reckless spending, debt and poor financial choices (someone with access to our money)
- Abuse or neglect
- Harsh, hateful words
- Driving under the influence
- Slander/gossip that colors people’s opinions of us
This list is endless.
The greater the hurt from someone’s actions, the more tempting it is to hang onto and the harder it is to release.
As many lives are spoiled by bitterness and a lack of forgiveness as by almost anything in the world. People go through physical and emotional breakdowns because they refuse to forgive others. The longer we carry a grudge, the heavier it becomes. We cannot afford to harbor bitterness in our soul….
Forgive and be forgiven. And then forget it. This is the secret of spiritual health. Keep short accounts with God and men. Dont lock bitterness and guilt within the closet of your soul. Allow the Holy Spirit to shine His divine spotlight in your heart. Let Him clean out every closet in your soul. Then claim Gods wonderful promise, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
-Evangelist Luis Palau (emphases mine) :)
Is such a burden worth hanging onto? It only grows larger and heavier with time. You risk losing your heart, your love for others, your joy and happiness, your peace, and healthy relationships (because you’re suddenly suspicious, thinking they’ll do the same thing to you that so-and-so did). I know because it’s happened to me.
After years of carrying a burden of bitterness, I had this epiphany: Forgiveness is the best revenge.
Isn’t that what we want when we stay bitter–for them to suffer for what they did? We want to “get back at them”, for someone to pay for their poor choices. We instinctively understand that whole eye for an eye aspect of justice. In OT times, a lamb lost its life. Nowadays, we know Jesus paid. And if someone refuses to accept His sacrifice to cover the sins they’ve inflicted on others, well then God said one day He’ll judge them. “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” And that day may come for them sooner than later–even on this earth.
So if we know justice will be served and then leave it in God’s hands, let’s do ourselves and everyone around us a favor and let it go. All of it.
We’ll free ourselves from the burden of repaying that person back. We’ll leave room for God’s wrath (way better than ours anyway!). And we’ll free ourselves to live without their influence guiding our choices anymore.
Yes, they hurt us. But do we want to allow it to continue hurting us? No way.
Forgiveness is truly the best revenge. If this is our response, we’ll win that scenario every time.
Take the advice of one of our country’s most influential leaders to ever walk American soil–a man who overcame incredible hatred during his lifetime, lost his very life to hate and had every reason to return the favor:
“I’ve decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” -Martin Luther King Jr.