1. a strong and an often unpleasant taste
2. a strong feeling of hatred or hostility
3. a feeling of sorrow, pain, or discomfort
How does one’s heart become bitter?
What does a bitter heart look like?
How can we overcome bitterness?
I’m sure at one point in life, we have all tasted something bitter. Even if it was medicine. It’s like when you have that taste in your mouth, your taste buds are ruined for that moment until you taste something sweet. In fact, in that moment, you try very hard to find something sweet because the taste of bitterness is so disgusting. Thus the song, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
As I’ve worked with different individuals, I’ve learned to recognize when someone’s heart has become bitter. Not only is the person unaware of their bitterness, there is nothing I can say that will sway this person to be objective about a given topic. Instead, it feels like they are the ones trying to convince me to understand their point of view. Unlike bitter medicine, bitterness of the heart tends to linger because we justify and defend it.
As a counselor, the most common form of bitterness that I’ve seen stems from disappointment with God. These people are convinced that God did wrong by them and they think that they are completely justified in their feelings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not minimizing the feeling of disappointment with God – that pain is real. However, I’m trying to address the issue where this disappointment makes someone so anti-God that their life mission becomes convincing others that God doesn’t exist.
Another form of bitterness is when a spouse cheats. Sometimes the one betrayed becomes bitter and may not even be aware, because they are so hurt. But as they talk about it, the pain bleeds through their behavior and speech in ways that manifest bitterness.
Every time you get hurt and you don’t respond in love, many times you respond in bitterness. When we have expectations in others and these expectations are not met, our hearts usually respond in bitterness. Bitterness can also form when we are offended by someone’s actions or by an experience.
The human heart is like a garden and this garden is cultivating love.
The ultimate purpose of the heart is to love – to experience love in such a way that it can receive and give love. So, it’s very important that we to tend to the gardens of our hearts against weeds that will destroy this love. We not only have to pull the weeds, but we also have to nurture our hearts with things that will help us to grow in our ability to receive and give love. So, what do these weeds or bitterness in the gardens of our hearts look like?
Mark 7: 20-23
And he was saying, that which proceeds out of the man that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.
According to this verse, if our hearts have these attitudes, when people don’t treat us according to our expectations, instead of responding in love, we respond with feelings of hatred and dislike - which is bitterness. These feelings are the opposite of love. It’s our responsibility to tend to our hearts in such a way that when we get disappointed by life’s circumstances, we can always continue to grow in love towards others, ourselves, and God.
We are in fact warned to be very careful that we don’t grow bitter roots. In other words, we need to make sure that our hearts don’t become a breeding ground for bitterness. When we operate in bitterness for a long period of time, we don’t realize that we develop poisonous roots that contaminate everything we do.
A Bitterness Test:
When you go to the places in your heart where you got hurt, how do you talk about those experiences?
What do you think about those things or people that hurt you?
How do you behave when talking about those things or people?
If you are not operating in GOD’S LOVE,
then you may have a bitter heart.
If you are seeking justice without God, and you take matters in your own hands without forgiving situations and people, you are putting yourself on the path to becoming bitter. If God has disappointed you or you feel His justice system doesn’t work for you, you are in a vulnerable position to become a bitter person.
Bitterness isn’t something that disappears in a single moment. It takes commitment to love, to deal with bitterness. Different situations and circumstances will bring out different attitudes out of your heart based on the scripture above. It’s just like gardening, you don’t take the weeds out in a single day. The nature of weeds is to always come back after you take them out. In the same way, it takes intentionality, consistency, a desire to overcome, and a commitment to love to take care of bitterness.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
Just like we have different types of soil, weeds, and plants for different gardens, we have to know the condition of our own hearts and the types of experiences that have shaped and formed them. If you are not walking in love when it comes to others, ask yourself what is hindering you from doing so. Deal with those weeds and grow to love others.
This journey to heal from life’s hurts is a commitment to not only love yourself, but also to love others and God. Is it easy? Absolutely NOT, but it’s worth every effort because it’s on this journey that we all grow to become better, loving people.
So, don’t get discouraged if right now you are dealing with a bitter heart. Acknowledge that you have been hurt, choose to forgive, and allow your heart to open up to love again.