Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions
By Chris WittsSunday 22 Dec 2019Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 4 minutes
It’s amazing how the little irritations of life can grow into big issues that get out of hand. Take for example of toothpaste in the bathroom. Husband and wife share the toothpaste, like Fred and Mary. Fred came home one night after a busy day at work. He had his meal and rushed into the bathroom to brush his teeth. But when he opened the drawer, he saw the roll of toothpaste his wife had squashed in the middle for the umpteenth time.
He flew into a rage and yelled, That woman. She’s always squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle. I’ve asked her a hundred times to roll it from the bottom. But does she listen to me? Never. She’s the most stubborn pigheaded woman I’ve ever met. How she would like it if I ignored her incessant requests? Then he plotted to get even. He’d had enough. He thinks to himself,
I’ll teach her a lesson. She hates it when anyone in the family forgets to replace the cap on the toothpaste tube. So, I’m going to leave it off. Tomorrow morning when she comes here to clean her teeth, she’ll be furious. If I’m lucky, the toothpaste will harden overnight. And when she comes to squeeze it, she won’t be able to. And maybe as she looks at it, a little pellet of hard toothpaste will pop out of the tube and hit her smack between the eyes.
Seems a ridiculous story, doesn’t it? Is a squashed tube of toothpaste worth expending all of that emotional energy? Hardly! If Fred had been in a better frame of mind that night he should have said to himself, Oh, look at this. She squashed the toothpaste tube in the middle again. Maybe we should buy individual tubes—one for her, one for me. You may smile at this trivial matter—but when this kind of upset goes on and on, feelings get out of hand, and next thing we have a very bitter and angry person.
What Is Bitterness?
So what is bitterness anyway? In looking at the Bible and the advice it gives, one of the Bible words for ‘bitterness’ literally describes the bitter taste of certain food or drinks. The verb translated to be bitter means ‘to cut or to prick’. We may usually think of bitterness as a self-inflicted emotion, an internal wound. But the Bible actually describes it as a resentful, unforgiving attitude which will cut and prick others as well.
So, it means that if you are a bitter person, you are not in the habit of forgiving others. You harbour and keep resentful feelings. If you are bitter towards a particular person, it means you haven’t truly forgiven that person. It’s a hard topic to accept, but true nonetheless. So, to put it another way, bitterness is the result of responding improperly to an offence, according to the Bible. That’s why Hebrews 12:15 says, “Make sure that no one missed out on God’s wonderful kindness. Don’t let anyone become bitter and cause trouble for the rest of you”. Other versions of that verse talk of the ‘root of bitterness’.
Question Your Attitudes
Of all the human emotions, the one that causes the most trouble among people is bitterness. Bitterness is an emotional cancer that will eat you up from the inside out. It is a blight that will contaminate you. If you’re not careful, it is a burden that will crush you. I heard about a bumper sticker that simply said, Question Your Attitudes. I thought, What a remarkably profound statement! It seems to cover the source of a wide range of mental health problems.
Serious psychological problems so often stem from the fact that people, for one reason or another, never thought to question their own attitudes. They questioned everyone else except themselves. And bitterness, with its tendency to blame others, is one of the most convenient ways to do that. The bitter person needs to question whether bitterness is really a productive, helpful attitude for themselves or for anyone else. The person who hides bitterness from themselves must be willing to go even deeper, and question whether they are being honest when they deny being bitter altogether.
It is unlikely that any of us is totally free of bitterness. So question your own defensiveness about the subject. Could it be that you are harbouring some secret hatred toward someone who criticised you, or who hurt you in some other way? Is this attitude really helping you to be a better person? Or is it holding you back from life in all its fullness? What can you do today to resolve your bitterness and restore fullness to your life and to your relationship with other people?