The Sour Life
A little sour goes a long way with me. A little lemon is good, not a lot. Do you like rhubarb/strawberry pie? Grandma Harness used to make that a lot. I also enjoy rhubarb crisp. Each year we harvest our own rhubarb and are sure to put a lot of real sugar in the crisp because of how sour the rhubarb is! I even like some of the “Sweet and Sour” candies made today. Sour foods taste bitter, acidic, and tart. My palate can handle only so much. I like sweet much better.
When it comes to relationships, sour, is not something that you want your life to be described as. Christians do not want their outlook to be “sour.” Our relationships should not taste sour and our emotional/spiritual perspective should not be bitter.
“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled…” Hebrews 12:15
One funny story goes like this: “Two writers who were bitter rivals were both attending the same party. One had recently had a book published, and the other commented to him, “I read your new book and liked it. Who wrote it for you?”
The other replied, “I’m glad you liked the book, who read it to you?”” (6,000 Plus)
Two simple observations of the devastating effects of bitterness include:
- Bitterness troubles the one who is bitter. This includes a guilty conscience, irrational reasoning, with confused anger and responses to others.
- Bitterness affects the people around the one who is bitter. A husband affects his wife. A wife affects her husband. Parents will impact their kids. While some believe a self-propagated lie that “my bitterness only affects me” – the truth is “many be defiled” by one person’s bitterness.
Some people are bitter about their childhood and upbringing. Some are still angry with their parents for schooling, sports, discipline, and other areas. Some people are bitter towards childhood acquaintances from school, church, or teams they played on. Others develop hatred in college, towards their “first romance” or even in the first real job. Some are in relationships with people right now and are allowing unresolved issues, anger, selfishness, pride, or misunderstandings sour their outlook on life.
A basic practice of Bible Christianity is “self-examination.” Considering the Word of God, are you harboring any level of bitterness towards someone? Here are several identifiable characteristics of bitterness that can help you in your self-assessment:
- Obsessive thoughts of revenge
- Critical or unkind comments
- Conflicts with others
- Aggressiveness in relationships
- Controlling behavior
Bitterness will wreak havoc on a person and their family. Being bitter will bloom into many other areas of sin; neglect, hostility, and wrong thinking. The fruit produced by bitterness will be a life of regret, an outlook of despair, and a heart of hatred.
If any of the characteristics of bitterness are found in you, do everything you can, with God’s help, to get it pulled out of your life. What should a bitter person do?
- Confess the bitterness as sin.
- Identify the source: jealousy, anger, rage, fear, pride.
- Ask other people to pray for you. This demonstration of humility makes it clear that you mean business.
- Ask for another Christian to hold you accountable when you exhibit any of the characteristics of bitterness.
- Ask forgiveness of those you have impacted directly with bitterness.
- Ask forgiveness of those who were indirectly impacted because of your bitterness.
- Restore your relationship with God. The vertical relationship with Jesus is directly impacted by your horizontal relationship with other human beings. Getting relationships right with others is one way to get your relationship right with God.
- Be happy in Jesus! Don’t live “the sour life!”
(“Characteristics of Bitterness” – Guide to Biblical Counseling. Clinton and Hawkins.)