Article

Choosing Love Over Bitterness

Michael Beck Michael Beck

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Ephesians 4:31-5:2)

Bitterness is a toxic build up of frustration, disappointment or indignation. A bitter heart is a well whose waters are never far from the surface. There the worst things done or said to or about us are stored. Bitterness is the hard drive that will not be erased.

The deeper the hurt, the greater the opportunity for bitterness to take hold.

We have all been offended. No one can go through life without being hurt. The worst hurt comes at the hand (or mouth) of those who ought to love us the most. The deeper the hurt, the greater the opportunity for bitterness to take hold. We can try and bury painful feelings, but the present has a way of recalling the past. What people do today reminds us of what they did yesterday. They may even have apologized, or asked for forgiveness, but the memory of their action doesn’t go away. It resurfaces to revive our anger and diminish our affection.

We can carry bitterness our whole lives toward someone – especially those we should be close to. We wish forgiveness would enable us to forget, but though we’ve tried to be free, we don’t feel entirely cleansed from all bitterness. Secretly, we are holding our pain and doing our best to love.

Love is a decision to not let the past destroy the present.

But maybe the problem is just this: we think that love and mercy and forgiveness is supposed to wipe away the memory of a wrong. No, love covers a multitude of sins. Love is a decision to not let the past destroy the present. Love lives in grace and mercy toward others because it is so well aware of how much grace and mercy it has received from God. Love is so much more than a feeling; it is a choice to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, to pray for those who mistreat us, to continue to give despite how little we’re getting.

The problem with bitterness is that it knows nothing of the love of God. Bitterness is always ready to walk away, cut someone off, bring a relationship to an end. Hatred is a by-product of bitterness. The retribution one did not take in the past is always ready to be meted out in the present. The sour taste of the past is continually in one’s mouth.

Refuse to carry the spiritual cancer of bitterness in your soul.

The most wonderful relationships you see are not those which have been problem-free; they are those which have learned to put off all bitterness. If you would escape the pain and sorrow of the past, go beyond granting forgiveness – refuse to carry the spiritual cancer of bitterness in your soul. Choose a love that could see, but chooses not to. The more we learn to love the imperfect people that surround us, the more we mirror the perfection of our Father in heaven.


Michael Beck is a pastor in New York City and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.