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How to Pull up the Roots of Bitterness out your Life for Good

An article of faith by Evangelist Nidicka Frederick

If someone was to tell me I was a bitter person, first I would be highly offended and then I would most likely jump on the defensive and offer them a list of behaviors contradictory to their claim! This is exactly what happened to me recently when my dad’s response to a comment I made to him was, “I didn’t realize you were still so bitter, nothing will change until you release that bitterness.” Now there are a few things I need you to consider regarding this exchange 1. My dad is my closest spiritual advisor and he has never spoken negatively about me or to me in my entire life. This was not meant to be an insult; my dad was seeing me through his spiritual eyes and making a Godly assessment. 2. I in no way, shape or form believed myself to be bitter. And 3. Once God reveals to you that you are standing outside of His will and character as a Christian you have an obligation to repent, correct and repair.  Well I have already repented so consider this article an effort to correct and repair. Let’s Talk!

     I once conducted a seminar in which my team members were given an opportunity to describe themselves on paper and then hear how their team member “saw” or perceived them. I was immediately amazed by how different the responses were including my own! For example, I consider myself patient yet my husband claims I’m the most impatient person he knows! I consider myself verbally gentle in a verbally aggressive world (because I don’t curse) but my closest girlfriends would disagree emphatically taking it a step further to maintain I’m one of the harshest speakers they have ever come across and I’m their spiritual advisor! My point is, how we see ourselves and how others see us is oftentimes two different things. But what does this have to do with bitterness? Well I made another discovery in that conversation with my dad. In every area of my life in which I’m experiencing bitterness it was based on the same event- someone I loved dearly was hurting me specifically by holding me to a standard that is different than how see myself. This revealed to me that bitterness is deeply rooted in pride and we cannot pluck a root we cannot admit exist so let’s dig a little deeper.

     First, let’s gain a fresh perspective on what it means to be bitter and to hold on to bitterness. In my mind, being bitter meant you had an inability to move beyond an offense so you behaved recklessly and rudely toward your offender (feeling justified in doing so) because of their defilement of your character. Although this can be a real branch of bitterness, it is not entirely its root. The root of bitterness is the resentment that we hold on to in secret and tuck away in our hearts for the actions taken against us. Bitterness prevents true forgiveness because the taste of its sourness continuously replays in our minds whenever the offense is mentioned. This is the problem with unresolved bitterness, you can truly believe yourself resolved when you are still stewing in indignation.  

     I’ll offer you another example. I have an ex ministry partner and friend who has spent more quality hours alone with me than members of my own family! Although we mostly worked together, we spent most every lunch and break together allowing us to develop a friendship based on knowing each other beyond what others perceived on the surface. Despite knowing the quality and character of my person, this friend preceded to 1. Lie on me 2. Accuse me 3. Bring charges against me in my workplace and 4. Joined in with another co-worker in actions against me. Those who supported me during this time assumed I was justifiably angry because of the horrible actions being done to me- but that was never the case. I grew bitter and resentful towards God because He allowed someone to call me outside of my character and in my opinion did not do enough to correct them. This is how we enter the pride aspect of bitterness. When you are bitter you are usually angrier at the audacity of the situation then the situation itself. You see,  every single action this once perceived friend did to me I had already witnessed them do to others. I had even counseled them against doing these types things to their family members to gain peace. I was not surprised by their ability to cause harm, I was surprised by their ability to cause harm against me!  The mandate of relieving all bitterness becomes a challenge in this regard because it requires relieving yourself of the self-righteousness that speaks, “I did not deserve for this to happen to me!” This is a prideful and destructive thought which also requires a fresh perspective. 

     Jesus Christ did not deserve to get nailed to the cross. He is perfect, innocent and without sin yet He endured the cross in obedience to God’s will for humanity. This cross is the gift of Christs’ miraculous birth optimized. If Jesus Christ can suffer the humiliation of crucifixion out of love for me, why can’t I endure the humiliation of a sinner’s perception of me and still honor God? The danger of believing you have forgiven someone while holding on to resentment towards their actions against you is that you are constantly sinning against God and may not even know it. You don’t discover you have a problem until the name or situation is bought up and you find yourself raising your voice, getting angry, growing defensive and justifying your hardened heart against them. In each situation in my life in which I was holding on to bitterness the formula was the same

I revealed my heart and soul to the person >>> The person identified me outside of who I revealed myself to be >>> The person acts against me based on their new perception of me >>> I retreat in a space of utter indignation and resentment often guised as forgiveness from afar. 

     I cannot thank God enough for my father’s decision to call me out on this ungodly cycle because it could have been hindering a plethora of blessings! So how do we pluck the roots of bitterness and make sure they’re gone for good? I’m glad you asked! Let’s take it to the Word of God and look at Ephesians 4 starting with verse 22.  Scriptures says, 

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Step 1.  in pulling bitter roots is to identify the offense and how it makes you feel in your mind and then immediately turn that feeling over to God! That’s right, pray, pray and pray some more! This will not happen overnight and depending on the extent of the offense it may not be easy but it is possible through Christ who strengthens you! 

Picking up in verses 26-27

26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

Step 2, in pulling bitter roots is rebuke all ideas of retaliation and give God, not the Enemy your heart right away! Note turning to God with a problem and trusting God with your problem is two different things. Don’t go before God, confess your heart and then walk away with the problem you just presented. Leave it at the foot of the cross! Telling God your concern is useless if you are not going to trust Him with them. So, let go and trust God!

Continuing in verses 29-30

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Step 3. In pulling bitter roots is watch how you are speaking about your offender and the circumstance! There is no better witness to the condition of your spirit than your tongue! Your mouth will tell on you every time! This is how my bitterness was revealed! Make sure your words are speaking hope, promise and peace. Let the Enemy know by your speech that even as you stand in the midst of your troubles you trust God completely!

I'll  finish with verses 31-32

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Step 4. To permanently eradicate the bitter, choking roots in your life  you have to “get rid” of the bitterness. What does it mean to get rid of something? It means to give it away or to replace it with something better. Ever notice that most people clean their closet or refrigerators before a shopping spree. It’s a logical thing to get rid of the old before bringing in the new. For one thing if the space is too crowded, there will be no room for the new. If we are holding on to anger, malice and rage where do we expect God to deposit His peace, security and love? Notice verse 31 is a mandate, not a suggestion. If we want to experience God's mercy and love, we must get rid over every behavior that hinders our receiving it

Christians should never feel above giving the compassion we received from Christ while still in sin. Compassion, even towards someone who has hurt you in the past, does not mean you agree with their behavior or that you’ll stand by idly, a glutton for punishment. There is a right way and a wrong way to love from a distance. The incorrect way is a lip service which says ‘all is well’ and is then revealed opposite at the first mention of an offense. 

***Think about a husband who has cheated on his wife and she finally says she forgives him but then the slightest “reminder” of his infidelity (a song, an outfit, a random name spoken) brings about an uncontrollable rage. It can be passive (like crying or an inexplicable mood change) or aggressive (like arguing and holding them hostage to their mistake) Eiher way when forgiveness is insincere and bitterness has taken root you are not loving from afar correctly. 

My dad revealed my spirit in a conversation about my estranged son and right up until that conversation I thought I had ‘left him to God’- my resentment although induced by him was pointed at God without a doubt which is a very dangerous position to be in. The correct way to love from afra is not lip service but work. It requires following all the steps above. Identifying and praying over the areas in your life causing bitterness, surrendering them all to God, refusing to speak negative over the situation, and choosing to get rid of the bitterness by replacing it with Christ like examples of kindness and compassion.  I truly believe that you can live a healthier life in Christ and will be blessed abundantly in your obedience to deliberately pull the bitter roots which are seperating you from God and His goodness.