Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. –Hebrews 12:15
Numerous people succumb to the dark forces of bitterness and I have encountered many such persons over the years. One lesson I have learned from them is I do not want to ever become bitter. My goal in this post is to encourage you if you are struggling with bitterness and also to provide strategies for handling bitter people. God’s Word warns us of the danger of bitterness. It begins as a root and then springs up into our lives creating negativity as it grows. Bitterness taints our outlook and causes us to see only the dark side of life’s challenges.
The following are traits of bitter people, which I have personally observed. I’ve also provided strategies for dealing with them:
Frequent and loud complaining. Bitterness has a voice and it comes out in complaining. Ask a bitter person how he or she is doing and the answer will typically involve complaining about something or someone. One method for deflecting this is to not join in the complaining. Seek to steer the conversation toward a more positive discussion. In a recent blog post I wrote about the benefits of resolving to speak only positive words about others (Strategies for Coping with Hurt Feelings). This works well in dealing with bitter people as well. This requires effort and is at times exhausting, but if the bitter person is someone we love and desire to help, then the energy is worth it. We also grow personally and spiritually though the process.
Resentful of the successes and accomplishments of others. Bitterness results in an inability to rejoice with others when their lives go in positive directions. Bitter people often have a hard time being glad over someone else’s accomplishments. Rather than rejoice, they may even feel jealousy because it did not happen to them. Lecturing or preaching at a bitter person might only serve to make the situation worse. As Jesus’ followers, we are to set an example of what true thankfulness and rejoicing looks like. All us of know people who make more money than us and don’t seem to have the struggles we are facing. Seek to focus on our own blessings and we will be able to rejoice over theirs. The bitter people around us will see our Christ-like attitudes and hopefully follow our example.
Highly critical of other people. Bitterness leads to a critical spirit. This demonstrates itself in constantly pointing out the faults of others. Not only is this exhausting to those who hear it, but it is also contrary to Jesus’ teachings on grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Again, make a conscious effort to not take part in a conversation where someone is being verbally skewered. Encourage the person to seek out the one he or she is speaking of and talk about their problems or differences in an adult manner, as Jesus said we are to do in Matthew 18:15. Unfortunately, it’s always easier to speak unkindly about people behind their backs than to lovingly and calmly confront them. Remind the speaker that if Joe is being run down that it isn’t fair because Joe isn’t around to defend himself. Also, encourage the other person that it’s better to pray for Joe rather than speak ill of him behind his back. Again, you are setting a Christ-like example in the presence of those who need to see it.
Firm belief that bitterness is justified. Bitter people are often self-righteous and cynical. They have been hurt or burned by past experiences and relationships, therefore they believe they have the right to be angry, negative, resentful, and critical. Such attitudes are damaging to the home, workplace, and the church. Follow Jesus’ example and deal with such persons lovingly and gently, while setting a positive example of what a Christ-like spirit looks like. And pray for such persons that God will touch and change their hearts.
Bitter people are difficult to be around and they will often drain the life right out of us. They are toxic to the bright outlook Jesus calls us to possess. This is why it is so vital that we maintain our own personal walk with God and stay in daily prayer and meditation on God’s Word.
So how about you? Has bitterness crept into your heart? If so, recognizing it is a step forward to overcoming it. I welcome an opportunity to pray for you today. As always, you may comment anonymously in the comments section.
Life’s too short to be bitter. Rise up and claim a better, brighter day.
God bless you.