How Bitterness Behaves

6 Characteristics of Bitterness

Bitterness destroys lives, families, and churches. Left unattended, she inevitably spreads. On her playing field, nobody wins. Recognize her early. Deal with her seriously. She is dangerous. Extremely dangerous.

Consider a few of her characteristics:

She Internalizes

Like a seed, she germinates underground, small and unseen. Quickly her roots grow, and by the time she sprouts to the public eye, she has established an extensive root system in the ground below.

Bitterness pushes the rewind button a million times. Over and over the hurtful scene is replayed in the mental cinema. In some ways, it’s almost as if the memory is granite and bitterness has etched her words there permanently.

So haunting is her story, it often greets a person in his waking moments and whispers to him as he falls asleep. And with annoying regularity she interrupts throughout the day. Every day.

Just behind the smiling face she lurks. Her poison soaks the minds of some of even the Kingdom’s busiest workers. She finds the innermost crevices of the heart and lodges there.

She Personalizes

Bitterness rarely focuses upon situations or circumstances. Nope. She is completely absorbed with people. One doesn’t have to spend too long with a bitter person before he knows exactly who the object of his bitterness is.

What he did.

What she said.

How they hurt me.

And it doesn’t matter if the person is well-liked and respected by others. The sole criterion for his spot at the crosshairs of bitterness is the perception of how he has treated me.

She Criticizes

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” Bitterness inevitably seeps out of the mouth. No matter how carefully her host endeavors to chain her, she’ll find her way out.

Somehow every conversation provides fertile ground for one new critical weed to push through the surface. Often the listener internalizes the question, “Where did that come from?”

For the embittered person, each new conversation and every new relationship is an opportunity to colonize new minds with the same old story.

She Emphasizes

She emphasizes herself. Her hurt. Her narrative. Bitterness is the ultimate narcissist. She sees everything and everyone through her distorted lens.

Perhaps the most insidious outcome of bitterness is this self-absorption. The embittered one cannot see the needs of others and the ways by which he can encourage, help, pray, and serve.

She Rationalizes

Bitterness will not see herself as sinful. She simply reacts. And her reaction is justified because your action was not.

By contrast, forgiveness refuses to use the past as evidence against the offender. Bitterness however retries the case and renders a guilty verdict a thousand times.

For some, bitterness is their comfort food, their little stash of chocolate to make them feel better. And constantly she excuses her behavior with her own little conversation: “I deserve this. I know it’s not good for me, but I deserve it. It might not make things better, but it makes me feel better. That’s all that matters right now.”

Says the alcoholic.

Says the drug addict.

Says bitterness.

She Demoralizes

Bitter people die a slow death. Such is the nature of the poison. Hurt begets hurt. And the expressions of bitterness inevitably isolate them from would-be encouragers or prayer partners.

Bitterness pleads loudly for her survival. And while forgiveness, humility, and Spirit-dependence offer better, life-giving arguments, they are too often unheard amid the clamorous and self-justifying protests of bitterness.

Search your own heart. Ask for God’s help. Be brutally honest in the mirror. Act quickly. When it comes to bitterness, time is not your friend.

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