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Bitterness and Unforgiveness

by Dr. Sidney Langston

Bryan came to my office in an attempt to work through some anger he was holding against his sister. He revealed this anger came from his perception that his father was more caring, supportive and financially giving to Sally. Bryan had a high-paying job, was well established in his community, and financially secure. Sally, on the other hand, was not well, physically, emotionally nor spiritually, therefore in need of more overall help than her brother. As Bryan and I talked, he cited example after example of how he felt he had been short-changed by his parents. The more he talked the more apparent it became that he was not only angry, he was resentful of his sister.

 

Over time, instead of this resentment abating, it grew. Session after session, all he could talk about was how badly he had been treated by the three significant others in his life. All my efforts to help him resolve his issues, to forgive others for his perceived injuries, and turn these matters over to the Lord failed. Finally it became obvious to me that Bryan was harboring a root of bitterness toward his family.

 

He became bitter with God because he felt short-changed. He cried out, “Even after praying for a long, long time, God never changed anything!” This illustrates how the enemy uses bitterness to prevent an individual from personal insight.

 

This bitterness and anger manifested itself not only in my office by what he said, but he began to omit Sally from family events which he planned. What needs to be stated here is that Sally was totally unaware of why she was being treated this way. Bryan’s behavior obviously was creating a huge fracture in family relationships.

 

During my years of practice, I have seen many clients that seem to experience a lag in their recovery because they harbor a root of bitterness within their spirits and their emotions. This bitterness can be directed at a person or event, and often even toward God because they believe He has failed them. I want to help these individuals and the readers of this article to be able to understand what bitterness is, where it comes from and what to do about it.

 

Webster defines bitterness as “having a sharp, disagreeable, harsh, resentful and cynical feeling or attitude toward another.” In the Old Testament, bitterness is represented as poison or venom; contentiousness and rebelliousness or disobedience toward God; or as a curse (Deut. 32:32, Jer. 2:19, Judges 5:23). New Testament meanings also convey the perception of wickedness which, as a bitter root, produces bitter fruit and bitter hatred; grief and exasperation; and it infects that which it touches (Eph. 4:31, Heb. 12:15, Rom. 3:14-15, Col. 3:19, Rev. 8:11). It denies our peace and destroys our relationships. We nourish it by our notions that we have a “right” to feel bitter. But if we let bitterness take root, we

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