‘Get rid of all bitterness.’ Ephesians 4:31
The words ‘get rid of all bitterness’ paint a picture of a surgeon cutting out a malignant growth in order to save the patient’s life. Another translation, ‘Looking carefully…lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble’ (Hebrews 12:15), commands us to be vigilant lest a tiny bit of bitterness grows bigger and bigger and causes problems. Bitterness has many sources: an absentee or abusive parent we can’t forgive; a nasty divorce we keep reliving; the careless words of a friend who’s not even aware of their effect; a boss who passed us up for a promotion.
What’s the answer? Forgive, before the problem becomes embedded in your emotions and starts feeding off your memories. Paul writes: ‘Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you’ (Ephesians 4:32). And the sooner you do it, the better! Harbouring bitterness won’t change the other person, but it will change you – and not for the better. The heaviest thing you’ll ever carry is a grudge. It will make you a misery to be around because your driving desire will be to see the guilty party punished, especially when you or someone you love is the perceived victim. What happens is this: Satan convinces you it’s okay to harbour resentment. After all, you’re just protecting yourself from getting hurt again, right? When that happens, you dig in, justify your position and get comfortable living with resentment. That is, until it destroys you. But that doesn’t have to happen to you, because there’s no emotion so deeply rooted that God’s grace can’t reach down and remove it.