Trading Bitterness for Compassion

In the syndicated advice column, Ask Amy, by Amy Dickinson, a woman wrote asking how to shake off the resentment she felt. She signed her name “Bitter.”

Her husband was diagnosed with ALS at age 67. During that time his brother attended their granddaughter’s graduation party, got drunk and hit her car as he was leaving. Yet failed to tell anyone about the accident

When “Bitter’s” husband called his brother, he admitted he hit the car and had been drinking. After being lectured about drinking and driving by both “Bitter,” her husband, and their daughter, the brother texted them saying, he didn’t need to be lectured and they would never see him again

True to his word, he never checked on his dying brother again, nor came to the funeral two years later.

The woman wrote that she and her children are “bitter,” and feel “very betrayed.”

Amy responded that she could understand her “reasons” for bitterness. A heartbreaking and devastating disease. The death of her husband. And the cruel treatment of her brother-in-law.

However, after offering some possible explanations relative to addictive behaviors, Amy offered this insightful counsel.

“One way to cope with your bitterness might be to see if you can conjure a way to feel sorry for this man, who denied himself contact with his brother, and who will never be able to make it up to him.”

“During a quiet moment, ask yourself if this would be possible, and consider the idea that it might ultimately help you to trade your bitterness for compassion.”

I wonder how many reading Amy’s column have experience similar situations? The characters change. The stories are different. But the feelings are the same resulting in resentment and bitterness.

How many reading this blog post are struggling with some slight, sickness, hurt, insult, or betrayal and feel bitter, resentful and angry?

Please be advised that your bitterness will hurt you more than the object of your anger. Not only will it harm you mentally, emotionally and physically, it will harm you spiritually. In a word, the Bible says bitterness is sinful.

In contrasting the old person of sin with the new person of “true righteousness and holiness,” Paul penned this admonition: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).

The Hebrew writer warned that bitterness will cause us to “fall short” of God’s grace, “cause trouble” in our lives, and “defile” us spiritually (Heb. 12:15).

After Simon, who had been a sorcerer, obeyed the gospel, he became enamored by the miraculous ability the apostles possessed to impart spiritual gifts. His greed and lust for power prompted him to offer Peter money for this gift. Peter rebuked him saying that he had been “poisoned by bitterness” (Ax. 8:8-24). Peter said his heart was “not right in the sight of God.” And that he needed to repent and pray for forgiveness.

Bitterness is bad. Its venom poisons everyone it strikes. It alienates friends, estranges families, disrupts churches and divides communities.

Through the years we’ve witnessed preachers who’ve become bitter toward the brethren over some real or imagined mistreatment. Husbands and wives who live in a constant state of acrimony and bitterness. Adult children bitter over the mistakes their parents made while they were young. Aged people disgruntled and embittered toward their lot in life. Lower income people who resent the wealthy and are bitter about their financial state.

In his book, The Gift of Forgiveness, Dr. Charles Stanley observed, “Bitterness is never constructive; bitterness is always destructive. It doesn’t make any difference what people have done to us or how bad it was or how often they did it. Bitterness as a response to wrong doing is never acceptable before God. Nothing good ever comes from it.”

Dr. Stanley further reminded his readers that bitterness can be easily justified. That we have the right to be bitter just like the woman writing Amy. Yet, Stanley makes the point “if we allow bitterness to take root, we relinquish control of our lives. We cannot live with bitterness, because bitterness will eat away at us until we are destroyed.”

So, what’s the answer?

Peter’s response to Simon is a great place to begin. Repent of your sin, and ask God to forgive you. Amy’s suggestion of trading bitterness for compassion will change your perspective. Adding to that an attitude of empathy, sympathy and a sincere desire to understand the other person, will also greatly help.

Finally, returning to the Ephesian text, seek to apply this exhortation “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). These qualities will replace darkness of bitterness with the light and love of Jesus.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman



Filed under Discipleship

4 responses to “Trading Bitterness for Compassion

  1. tjyates59a6328895

    Thanks Brother Ken for this message.
    Bitterness is like a large pill that’s hard to swallow. The longer it sits in one’s mouth, the more bitter it becomes, and it does no good to promote healing until it’s digested (put away).


  2. Ken, this is so good that I shared on FB. So many harbor resentment and bitterness all their lives and it just makes them miserable. I’ve known people that say, “I just can’t forget nor forgive them for what they’ve done.” Mostly, I think it’s just a matter of pride but asking God to remove it from our lives is the answer. Thanks/


  3. This is so so true and sometimes so hard for me. I needed this. Thank you


  4. Pingback: Weekly Recap: April 24-29 | ThePreachersWord

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