We bring to you today, a blog highlight from “Hallenbeck’s Thoughts” by Brother Andrew Hallenbeck. In this blog post titled: “I Hate You! Or Do I Hate Myself?” Andrew examines the root of bitterness which can grow within the heart. He warns that allowing this root to take hold in our hearts can lead to sin and ultimately the ineffectiveness of our Christian walk. Let’s take a look at what Andrew has to share.
Bitterness can destroy from the inside out. Chewing, eating and deteriorating the substance that holds us together. Yet many, including myself at times, have allowed this characteristic of sin to gnaw at us, slowly degrading the fibers of our being. The result is an ineffective Christian whom not only dislikes self, but elicits the same emotion in others. Bitterness, if unchecked, spawns into a life of its own, often unnoticed and swelling into an untamed beast. What is bitterness and where does it come from? In this article we will attempt to delve into this attribute that has destroyed many.
What is Bitterness? Paul tells us, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31, ESV). The word used is from the Greek pikria and is best defined by Jackson as “a sustained resentment” (2011, p. 395). Likewise, David Lipscomb expresses, “Bitterness is a frame of mind which willfully retains angry feelings, ready to take offense and liable to break out in anger at any moment” (1939, p. 95). Thayer interestingly defines this term eloquently as “a bitter root, and so producing bitter fruit” (2003, p. 509, italics in orig.). Clearly this word expresses a far deeper meaning than mere glance reveals. The Hebrews author describes this term as “root of bitterness spring[ing] up caus[ing] trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, ESV). Bitterness, then, is a swelling emotion, a hatred or resentment that grows and transforms into action, destroying the individual, spreading like a cancerous cell. Often as a deformed cell, the resultant mutation is replicated by those around. This bitterness spawns not only hatred in that person, but often a following occurs in which entire congregations form an opinion based upon the resentment of one. The result is division. Accordingly, Solomon accurately states, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Proverbs 14:10, ESV).
Where Does Bitterness Start? Bitterness is firmly rooted in personal pride. If one examines why they are bitter, an honest person will conclude that either this emotion is rooted in jealously, low self-worth and/or anger. Paul conveyed that one must “put away” bitterness (Ephesians 4:31). Clearly this emotion at times takes effort and denial of self is warranted in order to suppress bitterness. The following are some primary reasons that cause bitterness:
- Jealously. When an individual is unhappy with what they have attained, whether monetary and/or position (i.e., status or popularity), they tend to look outward toward others.
- Comparison. Based upon the above mentioned criteria, evaluation of self produces unhappiness. One then compares their position or possessions with others that they deem successful.
- Unfairness. Comparison results in shortcomings of self (or at least one’s perception of what one deems “unfair”).
- Judgment. Restrictions are placed on others due to our inability to achieve our own goals. Because we have failed to achieve, we desire to tear down the success of others. One nit-picks others to falsify their accomplishments in feeble attempts to elevate self. “Look at me” is their cry!
- False Reality. One begins to create a false reality, a fantasy if you will. In order to elevate self, one ponders how they believe things should be. In their own mind situations are recreated as they see them. They set out to make things fair by competing with fellow Christians.
- Distrust of God. In the final analysis, there is a distrust that God is in control. As Job cried, “I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul” (10:1), one feels justified in creating their own destiny. The unfairness is equalized by judgment in mind and action.
- Manifestation. The beast has been created due to the fruits of anger and resentment. Pride raises its ugly head as the person vies for recognition. The once hidden emotion has grown into a battle in which each breath is only content if complaining and spewing hostility toward others. This platform of hatred and jealously is now firm in place. To those around it is apparent, yet to the one engulfed in bitterness the false reality is real, tangible and a part of their life.
How Does One Overcome Bitterness?
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Andrew is married to Jennifer, a hardworking homemaker. They have 2 teen daughters Alanna and Cana, whom they are educating at home. While Andrew earned his degree as an electrical engineer he has chosen to serve the Lord as a minister of the gospel in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is author of the book “Praying to Jesus: An Examination” which examines the biblical soundness of addressing Jesus Christ in prayer.