I ran a divorce recovery group for our church for two years. We had a wonderful group of people who helped each other heal through their difficulties. I remember one woman who came for just one session, and did not return. Her name was Alice. When the group members began to share, Alice was quick to speak up and desired to talk about her ex-spouse. She wanted everyone to know what a horrible person he was, how he had left her, and married another woman. He did not meet her needs during their marriage, yet she had stayed faithful to him, however, he did not return the favor. She was enraged at him, and struggled with that rage every day. After she spoke, I asked her how recent her divorce was. The answer was fifteen years.
Every time I think of Alice, I feel for her pain. I am also saddened that she has carried the bitterness towards her husband for so many years.
Hebrews 12:15 says “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
As this verse explains, bitterness can become a deep root in our hearts and souls. The soil for this root is unprocessed hurt and pain. Bitter people never let it go, they become identified through the pain. Every aspect of life is seen through the filter of what has happened to them as they victimize themselves (“How is your day going?” “Well, it would be great, if my husband hadn’t left me fifteen years ago for a younger woman!”)
The fruit of the root is poison. Bitterness poison’s every aspect of our lives. We cannot feel joy, we cannot have peace, we cannot fathom happiness. And that poison “corrupts many.” Family members and friends taste our bitterness, because we wear it like a badge of honor.
How do we get rid of bitterness? By letting go. Releasing the pain and releasing the offender.
We have a choice to make, focus on the incident or focus on the rest of our lives.
The only way to get rid of bitterness is to kill it with forgiveness. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32) The bitter root poisons us, not the offender. Letting bitterness remain is like drinking poison so we can spit on another person.
The person who hurt you may not deserve forgiveness, however, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. When we release the offense, we can finally have peace.