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Being bitter is something I am familiar with, more than I would like to admit. Becoming bitter and remaining bitter are extremely common in our lifetimes. Somebody does us wrong and we feel bitter towards them. Maybe they really hurt our feelings or made us feel bad about ourselves. These are but two reasons why a person could become bitter. In actuality, there are an unlimited number of reasons why a person could become bitter, and it can negatively impact mental health, relationships, and even one’s spiritual walk with Christ.
1. You’re Unwilling to Forgive
One sign that you are bitter is if you’re unwilling to forgive. As someone who struggles with bitterness, I have a hard time forgiving others. This could be partly due to the way I was brought up; however, I recognize it is my fault also. Growing up, whenever I would do something wrong and apologize, I was taught that if I was truly sorry I wouldn’t have done the hurtful thing in the first place. While this line of thought has some credibility, it is impossible to think we are never going to make a mistake again.
The sad truth is that we all hurt others and others will hurt us. It is part of living in a sinful world. God didn’t intend the world to be like this; however, once sin entered the world, it changed all of this. We now live in a world where others will hurt us and often, it will be hurt inflicted by loved ones. All of us have been hurt by someone close to us at some point, and we have also hurt those who are close to us too. Forgiving someone for a hurt can be extremely hard, yet it is what God wants us to do.
The Bible tells us we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). This can be a challenging teaching; however, the Bible doesn’t pull any punches. When it tells us that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us, it means this is exactly what we must do. Maybe the person doesn’t deserve our forgiveness or maybe they never even asked for our forgiveness. Even if they don’t deserve our forgiveness and never ask it anyway, we are still to extend forgiveness.
Forgiving them doesn’t mean what they did was okay nor does it mean it is forgotten. Rather, forgiveness means you are giving the situation over to God. In other words, you are giving God all of the hurt and pain you are feeling. He can help you carry this burden and fill your heart with peace. When you choose to forgive others, it will help stop bitterness from taking root in your heart. Holding onto unforgiveness will only hurt you; it will never hurt the other person as much as it hurts you.
2. You Are Irritable
A second sign you are bitter is if you are irritable. Being bitter can cause you to have an extremely short temper. Instead of being able to work through issues logically and rationally, bitterness will cause you to become irritable with everyone. Maybe the person who planted the bitterness is long gone, but the hurt is still there. Holding onto this hurt and pain has only caused the bitterness to grow and deepen its roots in your heart.
As a result, you have become much more irritable. Maybe your sibling, friend, or spouse has noticed your increasing irritability. Sometimes it can be hard for us to recognize our own irritability because our minds have a way of making us feel “in the right” for our own hate and bitterness toward someone. We have to re-train our brains to not dwell on bitterness, but rather, dwell on the things that are good (Philippians 4:8-9). When we think about the things that are good instead of the things that caused our bitterness, we will slowly be able to bring peace back into our lives.
God doesn’t want us to live a life of bitterness and irritability. Irritability will only cause our loved ones to feel hurt and begin to drift away from us. We can’t control the things that happen to us, but we can control the way we respond to them. You are bitter for a reason, and this reason is completely valid. However, it is important you learn to let go of this bitterness in order for true healing to start. If you choose to continue holding onto the bitterness, it will only make you feel worse.
3. You Hurt Others More Easily
A third sign you are bitter is if you hurt others more easily. I know whenever I am feeling particularly bitter, I have a hard time controlling my emotions and it causes me to say things that hurt others. Rather than thinking through before I say what I want to say, I speak without a filter, and sometimes, this can be really hurtful. This is why it is important for us to let go of bitterness because it will only cause hurt for you as well as others in the long run.
Hurting others more easily can destroy relationships and cause lasting damage. Bitterness fills up our hearts and can consume us from the inside out. We cannot allow bitterness to keep causing us more problems. It is vitally important that we weed out the bitterness in our hearts and replace it with love, forgiveness, and kindness. We might think our own personal bitterness doesn’t hurt anyone when it actually has hurt numerous loved ones in our lives.
A word spoken out of turn or a hurtful remark can really hurt someone. When we allow bitterness to cause us to hurt others more easily, we are only inflicting harm. Bitterness has a way of causing not only the individual to feel miserable but also everyone around them. It is our responsibility as believers to let go of the bitterness because it serves us no purpose. All it does is cause even more pain in our lives.
4. Dwelling on Past Hurts
A fourth sign you are bitter is if you are dwelling on past hurts. I dwell on past hurts many times throughout the week. They show up in my mind and before I know it, I’m in a negative, downward spiral of bitterness. The rising bitterness in my heart demonstrates to me that I have never really moved past these hurts from long ago. As much as I would like to say that past hurts don’t hurt me anymore, they actually do and can cause bitterness to rise in my heart on any day of the week.
Maybe this resonates with you and you’ve noticed how bitterness raises its ugly head after you remember a past hurt. The past hurt would only come to mind because you have not fully let it go. If you have noticed this to be true, try to give all of the hurt over to God. Ask Him to help you not dwell on these past hurts and to instead move forward in the healing process. God doesn’t want you to live a life of bitterness and pain. He wants you to have life and to have it to the fullest (John 10:10).
The pain that you have in your heart is valid. Never should anyone invalidate your pain. For many of us, an invalidation of our pain causes us to develop bitterness in the first place. Don’t allow this to happen, even if others invalidate your pain. Your pain is valid, and God sees it. He knows your hurts and your scars. Not one of them is forgotten by Him. It’s time to put the armor down and give all the bitterness, past hurts, and past pains to God. He will help you truly move past bitterness.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.