Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In a nationwide US Gallup Poll, 94 percent of people said it was important to forgive, but 85 percent stated that they would need outside help to forgive. Many of us are stuck in the unforgiveness mode, making us unhappy and unwell. And, invariably, the bitterness poisons our relationships.
When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your bitterness or sense of injustice.
Bitterness is a nasty thing. Being bitter is like digging yourself a hole that you keep digging every day. And the deeper you dig, the longer the path back to the top. No-one can fault you for becoming angry about what you’ve been through, and maybe no-one should fault you for becoming bitter, either, but you owe yourself so much more than that. You don’t have to stay in the deep hell hole of bitterness.
Nelson Mandela had every reason in this world to be a bitter and angry man, locked away in prison for 27 years. But listen to this remarkable statement:
As I walked out the door of that prison gate that led to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.
It’s a profound and powerful statement—a statement of healing not only for him but later on for the nation of South Africa.
The Self-Harm of Unforgiveness
We are capable of creating our prisons if we’re not careful with our feelings. If we hold on to bitterness and hatred, then we will be imprisoned in our mind, unable to achieve the freedom that we deserve. I get it—when you’ve been hurt from something like bullying, you feel angry, you feel bitter, and you feel hopeless to overcome that pain.
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But, here’s the thing. We’re the ones responsible for causing ourselves any current hurt by remaining bitter about a past hurt. Let it go. It’s not easy of course and can be very painful. But in the end, it’s the only way. What are the effects of holding a grudge? If you’re unforgiving, you might:
- bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
- become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
- become depressed or anxious
- feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
- lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.
Author C.S. Lewis once said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
Popular Christian author John Ortberg once wrote this: “Living with people is like dancing with porcupines.” And I think he was correct.
Living with people, day in and day out can become difficult. And words can be said—in haste or on the spur of the moment, and we get hurt, or we hurt others. You and I cannot afford the luxury of holding on to bitterness and resentment against others because it only becomes the root of other problems.
This bitterness can be directed against yourself, and show itself in an inability to forgive yourself, even though God has forgiven you.
(To be continued in Release the Bitterness – Part 2)