There are consequences to holding onto bitterness. Bitter people are hurting their offenders to pay them back, but a tragic irony occurs. By taking vengeance, they hurt themselves worse than they hurt their offenders. Even worse, they injure themselves worse than their offenders injured them originally.
As one observer put it, “Harboring bitterness is like shooting yourself to hit your offender with the recoil of the gun!” Consider the consequences of usurping God’s prerogative.
The Emotional Consequences
Bitterness will poison your emotional life. There seems to be a connection between bitterness and depression. Many embittered people complain of chronic, unexplained depression. They don’t seem to have the emotional resilience to circumstantial adversity they once had. God evidently designed us to have an emotional reserve that acts as a buffer to adverse circumstances. We fill this emotional reserve primarily by cultivating thankfulness toward God and by practicing love toward others. Cultivating and maintaining bitterness, by contrast, takes up much emotional energy and therefore places a real drain on our emotional reserves. Consequently, bitter people often find themselves easily depressed.
(This is not to suggest that bitterness is the only cause of depression. There are many other causes, including chemical imbalance. Those who experience chronic or severe depression should seek professional help to discover the cause(s) of their depression.)
The Relational Consequences
When we become bitter towards another person, we usually think our bitterness will negatively affect only that relationship. We think we can tolerate this sin in our lives and yet isolate its destructive effects. But harboring bitterness will greatly impede our ability to develop any healthy relationships.
Some people seem to have a floating bitterness. Their real bitterness may, for example, be rooted in their attitude toward parents who repeatedly humiliated them. They may live a thousand miles away from their parents. Yet they flare up with anger when anyone embarrasses them. This can hurt their ability to sustain close friendships because embarrassment is inevitable in this context.
Long-term bitterness has a way of poisoning your personality with negativity. Embittered people tend to become cynical and full of self-pity. Over time, these attitudes can even affect the way people speak and carry themselves. They develop an angry tone of voice, or a nasty facial expression, or even a hostile bodily posture. Most of us have known people whose whole being communicates that they are deeply angry people. Tragically, such people tend to repel others, and then become more embittered against people for rejecting them.
Most bitter people complain that their offenders have used their power to wrongly hurt or control their lives. In most cases, this is the truth. The sexual offender, the domineering parent, the abusive spouse have all used their position of authority or trust to take advantage of their victims.
The more immersed we become in rehearsing their offense and expressing our revenge, the more we allow them to dominate our lives. This is why bitter people often become like their offenders in certain key ways. We were victimized by their controlling behavior. But then we become excessively controlling in our relationships with others. In a mysterious ways, bitterness reduces us to the level of the people we hate. In usurping God’s role to judge our offenders, we become like the very people we judge.
The Spiritual Consequences
The most precious privilege of the Christian life is enjoying relational closeness with a forgiving God. While bitterness will not cause God to reject us, it will eventually rob us of the ability to enjoy our relationship with him. Consider John’s warning in 1 John 2:9-11.
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him (NIV).”
Bitterness produces spiritual blindness because it is so profoundly hypocritical. Christians are the recipients of an incredible forgiveness. We are guilty before a holy God who has just cause to reject us and condemn us forever. Like the man in Jesus’ parable, we expect to make others pay their debts to us while we have our own, greater debt forgiven. We insist on the right to take vengeance on our offenders, we want to enjoy the benefits of being forgiven by God. This double-mindedness is extreme.
If we choose to retain our right to hate others, we forfeit the privilege of experiencing God’s mercy and goodness. When we server this crucial linkage between receiving God’s forgiveness and extending it to others, we become spiritually paralyzed. Our Christian lives will shrivel away from what they once were when we allowed the wonder of God’s mercy with us to spill onto others.
This article was edited from the book, Loving God’s Way, written by Gary DeLashmutt. It is published by Kregel Resources. This is not really a marriage book. It’s a book about relationships, which of course marriage is one of them. And as you can see from the portion we edited above, Gary has a lot of good insights on how to help relationships improve.
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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness
18 responses to “The Consequences Of Bitterness”
(ZAMBIA) I have been humiliated. I feel so hurt and so bitter towards my husband whom I found out forcibly had sex with my house keeper. My family is aware of that and wondering why I cannot just leave him.
I am trying to let go of the pain I am feeling, but it is not simple. He did not show any signs of being unhappy. I thought we had a good thing going. He tells me it meant nothing and that he still wants to live with me. I used to leave him with my housekeeper all alone from the time I start work at 08.00 hours to 17.00 hours when I knock off from work. He has not been working for the past 2 years and is always at home.
I am just hanging in there because I have a child who is about to write her 7th grade final exam in the the next 2 weeks. I am being strong for her so that she does not get disturbed. I am planning to leave him immediately my daughter writes her exams.
I am equally bitter with my housekeeper, who confessed that my husband would drag and push her until he had sex with her. She told me she could not tell me the first time it happened because he promised it would not happen again and that she should not spill the beans. But it happened the second time, then the third and that is when she told me whilst crying (in his presence). This bitterness is giving me ideas to just hit back at him. I feel like I can get into a relationship and have sex 3 times as revenge so that we are even. I know this is crazy, but nothing I do is taking away my pain.
(UNITED STATES) I am so sorry for you. My husband has betrayed me in so many ways drugs, money, mental and verbal abuse, cheating, you name it he has done it. I have been married for 21 years and have three teens one in college. I thought I was hearing from God telling me to stay and pray for my husband so he my know God. I now question it all. I even question God.
(UNITED STATES) I have seen and been part of 3 marriages restored from adultery, betrayal, and neglect. God does heal. I am a witness to this. Instead of questioning God, maybe try and use the Bible as reference and pray that God continues to guide you in what you should do. I hope this helps. In some circumstances you do not have to be with your husband, but if you decide to stay as a faithful wife, God can make miracles happen and restore your marriage.
(USA) We have an opposite problem, because my wife does the same thing to me of what your husband did until she divorced me. She ran around twice with men and is getting married this year.
But I forgive her for everything she has done to me. I laid it in the Lord’s hands. I’m not mad at her because she’s just a victim of our enemy, satan. I am just sad because we had a daughter.
I paid $410 child support a month, plus dental, health insurance, and vision but I only got to see my daughter for 2-3 hours once a month with supervision. This is terrible. But I can’t do anything about it.
The reason is because I’m just on a pilgrimage in this country. Even though this is the way she treated me, I still respect them and am trying to be a friend with her family.
It is so sad because she grew up in a Christian home and a Christian bookstore manager. They have an international ministry and are still active now. In fact, we met in a mission in a remote village and worked as missionaries. She is a daughter of a CEO in that ministry.
It’s too sad it happened to us, but everything has a reason under the sun. Romans 8:28… All things work together for good.
We have been separated for over three years now and I’m still single and never lost my faith in God. My advice is just hang in there. I think everything will be all right.
(USA) My husband has been in some very sinful acts throughout our 12 yrs. of marriage. I have forgiven him many times now. I have nothing more to give. There is no cushion for this emotional relationship. Every time we go ten steps ahead something happens and I go 12 back.
(PHILIPPINES) I’ve been married for over 12 years now. My husband was caught by my friend having an affair with another woman. It put our marriage on the verge of splitting, and caused a lot of pain and remorse. My husband kept on asking for forgiveness for two years until it finally sank into me that he was sincere. Slowly we rebuilt our relationship anew. I keep on reminding myself of that every time his past haunts me, that it’s over. I even forgave the other woman.
Now he is trying very hard to earn my respect and trust by telling me all the time what he is doing or where he is whenever he is on his job site or far from me. What I have learned from this experience is to forgive, forget the past, and most of all trust in God that He is in complete control over my marriage. I know that we will still have to go through a lot of trials and testing through our marriage but the good news is God is on our side; He will never leave us nor forsake us.
(ZIMBABWE) Firstly I would like to thank Steve and Cindy for the inspirational articles I receive weekly. I am also in the process of trying to rebuild my marriage. My problem is somewhat unique in that my husband does not ask the maid out or force her into having sex but goes around sniffing her pants. At the time being he is unemployed and stays at home most of the time. He goes in the maid’s room and touches her pants. I am not really sure what he does with them but I think he puts his organ on her pants and probably imagines having sex with her.
This had been going on for quite a while. I had to change my maid in the hope that he would change. I feel like I am fighting a losing battle. From his actions it seems he is possessed by a demon/evil spirit. I used to blame myself thinking that I was not fulfilling his needs but when I read your article on Adultery of the Mind, I realised I am not to blame. What should I do ?
(NIGERIA) I got married a little over 11 years ago and have 3 lovely girls. My husband had affairs with 9 women in our 11 years of marriage, slept with 4 of them, one of them was my very best friends in our own sitting room twice. He did all sorts of orals with the remaining 5. One of them a widow and a mother of 3, his colleague, went diabolical doing all sorts of things to get rid of me. They had sex in our car, in his office, in her house and he even followed her to a hotel. She was the one in charge of his wardrobes, feeding and bank accounts.
He came back to his senses and confessed all, and he’s been back since then, still begging me till date to forgive him. He’s now changed and reverted to the way we started. Thank God for answered prayers. Though I am still hurting but I know that very soon, I will be fully restored and I will not feel the pain as such again.
(ZAMBIA) I am the same person at the top of this page. It’s good to read other people’s comments and what they have gone through. It has been difficult to forgive my husband as he would not really show remorse. He refused any kind of councelling. We had been sleeping in different bedrooms since he had sex with my housekeeper. I have not forgiven the housekeeper. I have been in that house ever since it happened. I moved out only 2 weeks ago because I feel my marriage is not worth saving. I have been harbouring too much pain and anger and physically look a shadow of myself. My husband has not contacted me since the 2 weeks I left home.
Why should I take all the consequences and torture when I am the innocent one? He made his choice to betray me and has not helped me to heal. I am so confused, the pain is still too much. Am I expecting too much from him? How do I take back a man like that?
Are there men who just can’t love — who can’t see how am hurting? I would cry myself to sleep and he would not even ask what is wrong. It does really hurt. I am pain right now and I don’t know what to do.
(USA) My wife says she wants out of our marriage. She has been having an affair for over a year, and says she does not know how to stop. I have an anger problem that I am in counseling for. I have been taking a very hard look at myself since all of this started. I do not like some of the things I see in myself, and some of them are hard for me to accept. I now see that I have been a very self-centered and selfish person for a long time. I also see that I have been both emotionally and verbally abusive throughout our marriage. I feel deep shame and remorse for this.
My wife says she has forgiven me, but anytime we talk about things, she will throw things from the past up to me in order to hurt me. She wants me to believe that I am responsible for her affair. I do not feel that I am. Things in our marriage have been hard from both sides. Some of the problems I have, she also has, even though she does not see this. I have never strayed from our marriage and still love her. She says that our children want her to divorce me and that it won’t affect them in any way. I have grown closer to the Lord than I ever thought possible. I am praying for reconciliation and that the lord will soften her heart toward me and our marriage. God has exposed all kinds of things in me that I am not proud of and I know he is working to make me more of a Godly man. I am thankful to the Lord for his comfort and guidance through this hard time in my Life.
Hi Willy, I’m in a similar position than you. My husband wants to move on after 13 years of being together. He was jobless for 3 years and I carried the financial burden with terrible consequences because of stress. He made lots of money out of a business relationship that I have introduced to him to advance our financial position. He cashed in the money for himself and now wants to move on because he does not need me anymore.
The arguments started to intensify once he got money again and refuse to acknowledge my contribution over the last years. I’m pleading with him to go for counseling as we both love God but he refuses and stopped going to church. His pride and arrogance makes it impossible for us to try again. He told me that he is looking for somebody to date that can give him a child that I could not give him because it was not a criteria in the beginning. He would not reconcile on the basis that God hates divorce. He now blame me for all the words that I used in anger and choose to forget how he provoked me in what he said to me. I believe that we can reconcile but he wants out. It hurts me so much after everything that I have done for him. How do I move on?
(USA) “An Affair”
My heart broken.
My family shredded.
My trust violated.
Why hold bitterness.
My children crushed.
Scarred for life.
Her selfishness shown.
Her disrespect exposed.
Jesus is truth.
Gods love rules.
(PHILIPPINES) My father has cheated on my mom a couple of times already, but my mom still would not leave him. I am so bitter at him. The last text message I sent him was “I hate you and I never want to have to do anything with you anymore!” I’ve been asking God to help me forgive him, but I just don’t seem ready for it yet. Why is it so hard to let go of it? The pain still creeps in and there have been times when I lose my temper. I want to forgive him, and I know I can, but I don’t want to see him anymore.
I thank God Almighty for opening my spiritual eyes. I now know what bitterness and resentment can cost. I now forgive all my offenders in the Name of our Loving Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Thank you for the quotes. God bless.
I’m bitter against my husband. I was the submissive wife. I agreed to moving 389 miles away from my children. I was promised I’d see them once a month, and if we didn’t like it we could move back. All promises have been broken. I only see my kids on spring break and I have to save my own money without help from him to do so. I’ve begged to move back and he says for me to go; he is just some guy and I’ll get over him. He cleaned out our bank account and closed it and left me with having to ask for money, since I pay all the bills.
I said screw it one time and drove to see my kids and now he has been mad at me since I did that last month. Keep in mind it was the best time I spent with my kids. I drove 7 hours and before I even got him he called and asked me to bring food home. I had been driving with our 4 yr old daughter. He didn’t even ask if we were safe. I seriously hate him and feel no love. My first marriage failed due to domestic violence and now this one will. I think the bitterness is beyond repair.
Hi Jamie, I just read your text and I cannot help but respond. I can sincerely attest that bitterness carries a very high price, and is certainly not beyond repair. I can completely understand you of course. Very much so. It’s NOT fair and it’s NOT right. You do NOT deserve this. It is clear that your husband has little connection with your children, who I assume are from your earlier marriage. You mention “our 4-year old daughter” so may I take it that you and your husband have her together?
As a Christian, I know that unforgiveness is not right. I have seen firsthand what unforgiveness can do over a longer period of time from when I was very young. Specifically with my twin brother, because of events we went though when we were children. He is now overweight, he has problems with his heart, and he has been unhappy for most of his life. He has been though 2 marriages, he rarely sees his 3 children, and he is basically angry at the world. Anger and bitterness, if allowed in your heart, will rob YOU of the basic joy of living. They can severely affect YOUR health and even shorten YOUR life. And the offender may not even know!!
Our daughter was in an abusive relationship for 8 years. When the boyfriend with his very young son needed a place to sleep, we let them stay with us so they did not have to sleep out in the rain. This same boyfriend was physically violent toward our daughter, threatening her with a knife on one occasion. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that sometimes we feared for her life. They have a daughter together… our granddaughter. My daughter was required by court order to have our granddaughter brought to his house every week, and to pick her up 3 days later. I was the only person who could really do this. So I brought her every week for 9 months. The boyfriend attacked me once in my car, and on another occasion pepper sprayed me and a friend without provocation. He attacked our son, and hit him in the head with a bat. Had the point of impact been only slightly back from where it was, our son would have been brain damaged or dead. What I am saying with all this? I’m saying that sometimes I could have written your text above to describe how I felt. Fathers have a special connection with their daughters you know. Enough said.
Forgiveness means giving up any and all desire to “get even” with the offender, or to wish the offender harm. Forgiveness means stepping aside, and allowing God to deal with the offender. Forgiveness means letting go of the past, and of wishing the past had been different. Forgiveness is an act of the will, It is a conscious choice. It is a process. God Himself can, and will, help you to forgive when you ask Him from your heart. Forgiveness will set you free, will preserve your health, and will increase your joy of living. Forgiveness will open the way to allow God to work in your husband’s heart. Any path other than that of forgieveness will end up hurting YOU more in the end.
Our daughter left this boyfriend 3 and a half years ago. That was an extremely dangerous undertaking, which I’m convinced was led by God. She is now in a healthy relationship, and she has now a second daughter. Our son is completely recovered. Our family has been brought back together in miraculous ways. Forgiveness is NOT easy. But it DOES work. I hope to hear from you. WP (Work in Progress)
Soooooo you pressed charges on the boyfriend right? For assault and battery of a minor…carries a minimum of 3 years in prison. If you didn’t then you are part of the problem and only further purpetrate it.
Thank you for reminding me to let it be…let it go… forgive even in the worst of circumstances. Thank you God for this reminder; I needed it. I pray this helps others self reflect and chase out the darkness… be the light that burns bright and don’t let go of our Lord above!!