By Sandra Cobb, Crosswalk.com
It is a special night, and you have been looking forward to this dinner for two weeks. You walk into the magnificent restaurant with excitement and expectation of an incredible evening. Valentine’s Day only comes once a year, and you deserve this. It has been quite a while since you’ve been on a date. You were so invested emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially in that last relationship. The betrayal took you by surprise; you did not see it coming. You figure Valentine’s dinner is a terrific opportunity to get to know your date a little better.
The restaurant is five-star and the atmosphere is romantic. The person sitting at the table with you is looking forward to a romantic dinner with just the two of you. Little does your date know that someone is joining you. Guess who’s come to dinner with you? Bitterness.
Your server has seated you at the dinner table. While waiting for the appetizers to arrive, your date is trying to generate interesting conversation by asking, “So, how have you been lately?" How in the world did a simple question like this turn into a ten-minute discourse on how life has not been treating you fairly?
Your date is looking around the room at this point for clues of what just happened. The main course has been brought to the table. This gives you both a few minutes to regroup and relax from the pressure of trying to find a better conversation starter. It’s not too long before your date tries again. After all, maybe you have had a tough week. It happens. ”I am so excited about the grand opening of my new restaurant next month!” Amid inviting you to attend the event, you feel provoked to share about the business ventures you started but eventually failed at over the years.
You both are almost done with your delicious meals, and you have dominated the conversation throughout the evening. Somehow you keep finding an opportunity to interject with a negative experience that connects with each topic. Now let us see what your date knows about you at this point:
- Your date knows about the most recent failed relationship that surprisingly ended almost six months ago.
- Your date knows you were up for the promotion of director in your department, but the job was given to a less deserving coworker.
- Your date knows tried to get a loan to open your own business, but no one would give it to you.
- This is important. Your date also knows that you have five siblings, and you consider yourself to be “the black sheep” in the family.
The date is over, and you think things went well. However, you might not want to hold your breath waiting to hear from this person anytime soon. Why not? What went wrong?
You brought an unexpected guest with you to dinner named bitterness.
Let’s not overlook the lessons from this Valentine’s Day Dinner scenario. There are four key lessons to take away from this experience. First, we have learned that disappointments in our life have the potential to make us bitter. It is necessary that we confront what we are feeling after we experience a hurtful situation. No more sweeping things under the rug and pretending like we are fine when the truth is we are broken and wounded. Next, we learned that if we do not address our hurts, we run the risk of carrying around the unexpected companion of bitterness, and bitterness can show up in every area of life even when we least expect it. Finally, we need to become aware of signs of bitterness and be on the watch against them.
What is bitterness is? Rev. Kathy Brunbaugh cites an article in Psychology Today that explains a person with the root of bitterness is someone who has been hurt and has emotional pain. This person is in a chronic, pervasive state of resentment that does not diminish on its own. Bitterness doesn’t just spring up out of nowhere. It often enters into a person's life in response to their disappointment in an outcome; when an outcome does not turn out as they had desired.
It's time for your unexpected guest to go.
Bitterness left unchecked will take root in your heart and grow to the point that it consumes the life of the person. That is why to get rid of bitterness, you need to pull it up from the root.
Perhaps you have experienced a disappointing event in your life, but you thought you were over it. A Conscious Rethink.com published an article listing signs of a bitter person. I am listing a few of them in the form of a question for you to self-evaluate your own behavior. Consider the following:
• Do you hold grudges?
When offenses are done towards bitter people, they have a tough time letting things go.
• Do you find yourself angry at anyone who looks like or reminds you of the person who hurt you?
Bitter people usually generalize and feel angry toward types of people or groups of people because of the terrible experience they have had with a particular person.
• Do you love bringing attention to yourself by telling others about how life is treating you unfairly?
This is done in an attempt to get other people to agree with you and validate your feelings.
• Do you avoid being around happy people?
Bitter people are irritated by positive people because it highlights their negative attitude.
• Do you struggle to accept advice?
Bitter people would rather complain than take advice from people who genuinely care about them. When offered advice, the bitter person quickly goes on the defensive.
Offenses and misunderstandings are common. I believe God has spoken to both and has given Christians strategies to navigate and overcome them:
Be patient and forgiving of one another as Christ is with us.
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13)
Deliberately get rid of all bitterness, anger and rage, fighting and slander, and any desire to do any type of evil from within. Instead of the aforementioned, we are to be loving and forgiving to each other. The standard is, again, as God has forgiven each of us.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32)
Here are four steps to begin your healing and release from bitterness in life:
1. Acknowledge and admit that you are still hurting. No more sweeping it under the rug.
2. Beware of the signs of bitterness. Do not ignore them. Address the signs so you are not overtaken by them.
3. Cast the weight of bitterness off of you and onto God. Stop carrying it around with you. Ask God to heal you from a bitter spirit at the root.
4. Decide to forgive. Decide that you are fed up with the destruction and misery bitterness has caused in your life and your relationships. Decide that you will release yourself from the poison of bitterness by forgiving the person who hurt you. Ask God to help you to forgive.
My friend, I encourage you to end your relationship with bitterness today before it shows up, again, unexpectedly.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/karandaev
I am a grateful mother of 3 amazing children and grandmother of 9 precious grandbabies. I am a certified forgiveness coach, and released my debut book "Free to Forgive' in 2021.. I am passionate about sharing the love of God and testimonies of how faithful He is!