I have a lot of conversations with people in my job as an office administrator for my church. Most of the time, these conversations center around family and friends and sports and the weather—surface stuff.
Every now and then, someone will walk into my office seeking council on a deeper level. Sometimes, I’m just a listening ear; other times, I’m asked to provide advice or weigh in with personal experience. And when this happens, 99% of the time the conversation is about forgiveness.
Someone is hurt by someone else by either actions or words (or both), and they’re looking for answers or for a way to feel better. And in my experience, the person who is hurt rarely looks within themselves for the remedy.
I can’t remember if it was on the radio or in something I read, but I once heard some powerful advice when it comes to forgiveness, and it has stuck with me for a long time: “You can’t dine with better if you’re always entertaining bitter.” If we’re letting our hurt and pain fester inside us and turn to bitterness without learning to forgive and move on, our lives and our relationships will never become better.
In my office, I’ve seen what life can do to people. I’ve witnessed how deep trauma affects people. I’ve seen cruelty play out in front of me and listened as people have poured out their hearts in despair and hopelessness. I’ve seen people completely broken down by their despair.
But I’ve also seen people who have risen above—who have become better, not bitter. And it all boils down to looking within and being willing to forgive those who have hurt us, even if we never get to a place of reconciliation.
Letting Go Eases Our Suffering
When negative emotions aren’t handled well from the get-go, they can easily turn into bitterness. Bitterness is a poison that saps our joy and steals goodness from our lives. It can lead to all kinds of issues with our physical and emotional health. It can even cause distance in our relationship with God.
Each incident of bitterness begins with hurt. Whether someone deliberately or unintentionally hurts us, the wounds can run deep. If we deny it and don’t process it with forgiveness, the hurt we experience will eat away at us from the inside, and it not only will affect our wellbeing, but the wellbeing of everyone around us. Bitterness can lead to damaged relationships in marriages, families, the workplace, church, and in our communities.
It’s even possible to feel bitter toward God for a loss we’ve experienced. It’s human nature to blame God for things we think should have turned out differently. I definitely felt that way after my mom’s death. But a bitter spirit creates untold suffering that can only be remedied by learning to let go.
When we hand our hurt over to God instead of holding a grudge, He will handle it with perfect justice, which in turn gives us peace and freedom from our pain. We don’t need to seek an apology from the person who hurt us because forgiveness is an act of our own will. It’s faith between us and God.
God’s Word is my go-to place whenever I feel bitterness or resentment creeping into my soul. When I need an attitude adjustment or someone has hurt me and I need help letting it go, I lean into my faith and remember God’s promises.
Psalm 71:20 says, “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth” (NLT).
Every person feels bitterness at some point, but God promises to restore us. He wants us to place our hope in Him so we can overcome our bitterness and move forward into a better life with Him.
From Lamentations 3: “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (vv. 19-23, NLT).
When we are feeling resentful, we have a tendency to choose negativity instead of positivity. God knows we struggle to be positive in the midst of pain, so He wants us to remember His goodness and faithfulness every day. When we focus on the hope He brings, it makes it so much easier to forgive and release the hurt.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior” (Ephesians 4:31, NLT).
This verse makes it clear that bitterness is a huge problem. God wants us to remove it from our lives so it does not develop into bigger problems.
There’s More Than One Way to Heal
Sometimes, we need a little more than God’s Word to help us get rid of our bitterness. Professional counseling might be needed in addition to spiritual repair, and I’m here to say that it’s perfectly normal and OK to talk to a qualified person about your hurt. As women of grit and grace, we have to be willing to admit when we are stuck and need an extra friend to help us move forward. In this season of thankfulness and counting our blessings, it is so important to also remember we aren’t alone when it comes to our hurt and pain.
If you’ve faced tremendous challenges and hurt these past several years and are harboring bitterness and resentment, consider the aforementioned tips to help you overcome and move on. Learn to forgive (even if there is no reconciliation), let go of what isn’t working, and create a future that is more joyful and rewarding than you ever imagined.
Find a way to be better, not bitter.
If you’re still struggling with letting go of the hurt someone caused you, it might help to look at forgiveness this way: