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Reciprocal Bitterness

Category: Uncategorized

When I was involved actively in Alcoholics Anonymous one of the many portions of the “Big Book” that I found interesting was the discussion of resentments and the suggestion that the alcoholic should avoid retaliation and argument with people who wrong him or her. There is the observation that those people, like the alcoholic, are spiritually sick. The alcoholic is admonished to ask God to help

 him or her show those people the same tolerance, pity and patience that would cheerfully be granted to a sick friend.

It seems that alcoholics and non-alcoholics, alike, struggle by responding in worldly sinful ways to someone who is spiritually sick.  Isn't it true that many of us tend to be more tolerant of a person with cancer, even if they're complaining about their physical pain, than a person struggling with bitterness, particularly when we're the object of the bitterness?  Don't we tend to personalize someone's spiritual struggle more than their physical illness?

In dealing with our sin of bitterness toward someone who is bitter toward us (“reciprocal bitterness”), we can look to Paul’s advice to get rid of the bitterness and to be kind and compassionate to the other person, forgiving him or her just as in Christ God forgave us (Eph. 4:31-32) and remember that bitterness is an act of the sinful nature (Gal. 5:19).

“I know that’s biblical truth, but how do I implement it practically my life?” the counselee may ask.  The counselee's examination of his or her own heart is where God's miracle of heart change begins.  Is the counselee’s heart focusing on (idolizing) the other person's opinion of the counselee, what the other person is saying about the counselee to others and/or a self-absorbed desire to be thought of well by all people?  It may be helpful to remind the counselee of Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 6:24 that he or she cannot serve any of these masters (heart idols) and simultaneously serve God.  In serving any idols he or she is loving and devoted to them and hating and despising God.  The counselee has been raised with Christ and should set his or her heart on the things above and not on earthly things, such as reciprocal bitterness (Col. 3:1-2). 

Posted on September 11, 2013