Skip to main content

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness


This is Part 1 of a series on Bitterness.  (Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4)

Thank You, God, for a Husband Who Is Willing to Tell Me the Hard Stuff

My husband shocked me one night this week when he told me about some bitterness that he saw in me that I totally thought I had resolved.  At first, I was speechless.  I wanted to defend myself.  I wanted to say that I had totally taken care of all of that and that he was surely mistaken.  It was about some very old issues that I thought I had laid to rest.

Then, I decided to listen to my husband’s wisdom and not argue.  Maybe God is speaking to me here through my husband’s leadership.  I better be careful not to quickly dismiss something if my husband sees it.  So, I thought some more and realized – you know, maybe he’s right.  Maybe he can see something I can’t see.


I don’t LIKE being called out on my sin!  But – I am a pretty experienced sinner and I have a long history of deceiving myself  – so I decided to really think and pray about what he said.  And, I soon realized – HE WAS RIGHT!

I am SO thankful that my husband had the courage to tell me what he saw.  I need a man like that!  I have blind spots.  What a blessing his leadership is to me.

I want to really search out everything about bitterness and forgiveness and get to the bottom of the root so God can help us tear the whole root out and we won’t continue to be stuck with the debilitating consequences of bitterness in our lives.  I am on a crusade to end bitterness – with God’s Spirit and truth working in us!


It is a hanging on to wrongs suffered.  It is holding on to anger.  It is a desire for revenge or justice against the one who has wronged us.  It is a refusal to forgive.

We all have many reasons to be bitter.  We all have family members, siblings, husbands, friends, church members, neighbors, in-laws, coworkers and random strangers who are sinners who have sinned against us.  It is not wrong to be angry when we are sinned against – but, in our anger we are not to sin.

Bitterness and unforgiveness is HUGE sin.  In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about a servant who owed his master millions of dollars and the master forgave him and had mercy on him.  Then the same servant refused to forgive his fellow slave who owed him a small amount of money.  The master said to the unforgiving servant, “You WICKED slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?”

Bitterness/unforgiveness = wickedness

Bitterness and unforgiveness are MY problem.  It shows a faulty understanding on my part of God’s character and sovereignty.  It also shows my character and reveals any area that I am lacking the power of God’s Spirit..  There is no exception given to us where we are exempt from the command to forgive those who sin against us.

MANY of you have had to forgive MUCH MORE than I ever have.  But we are all commanded to forgive, regardless of the wounds we have suffered.  None of us can do this on our own.  We need the power of God’s Spirit to do this!

It only takes the SMALLEST amount of bitterness to grow into a huge, destructive tree that produces deadly fruit and poison in my life.


  • Jesus commands us to forgive so that God will forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • it is a gateway sin that leads to MANY other sins.
  • God commands us “not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”  Ephesians 4:30-31
  • “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Hebrews 12:15   Bitterness cannot lead to holiness.  It cannot lead to peace.  It also defiles MANY.  One person’s bitterness spreads like poison among many.
  • “‘In your anger do not sin.’  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  Ephesians 4:26.  Holding on to anger, nursing a grudge – creates a place for Satan to enter into our souls and lives.  Even holding on to anger over night creates a place for Satan to attack and hang onto us.  Bitterness is progressive.  It is a process.  It grows over time given a nurturing environment.  It spreads and becomes stronger and begins to consume our whole lives.

FROM THE EXCELLENT WIFE by MARTHA PEACE…(this is an awesome section on bitterness!)

Common Signs of Bitterness
1. Gossip and Slander
Gossip and bitterness defile many other people.  YIKES!

2. Ungrateful and Complaining

3. Judges motives

4. Self-Centered – victim

5. Excessive Sorrow

6. Vengeful – looks for ways to avoid person.  Leaves, pouts, gives the cold shoulder

7. Brooding – plays the wrong suffered over and over

8. Loss of joy – sin of bitterness> intense emotional pain and misery

9. A critical, judgmental attitude – focus on what other did wrong, not self

The doctrine of bitterness
– it grows when you take into account a wrong suffered.  Thinking about the bad thing feeds bitterness.  dwelling on the wrong suffered greatly intensifies emotional pain, making it seemingly unbearable at times
no strength, no happiness, no peace, no hope.  The emotional pain intensifies and sin will likely begin to multiply
– more sinful thoughts, anger, wrath, clamor, slander and possibly malice.  At this point, the other will be unable to do anything right in your eyes, even if they are trying.
– bitterness hurts your children

bitter feelings improve as you clear your conscience and begin to make second mile investments

– doing something extra special nice for the person, going above and beyond the call of duty.
– don’t return evil for evil but give a blessing instead
– the more intense your hurt, the greater the need to give blessings instead – eventually your emotional pain will abate and in the meantime you will be glorifying God immensely if your motive is to obey and please God.
– put off the bitterness by putting on kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving thoughts  Ephes 4:31-32
– keep a brief log of your bitter thoughts.  each time you feel hurt or resentful, write down your thoughts word for word. Then take the time to go over each thought and convert it to a kind, tender-hearted or forgiving thought.  Take each thought captive in obedience to Christ.

Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing.

Bitterness destroys love.  It stirs up overwhelming hurt feelings. T he sin of bitterness spreads and hurts other people.  It is, foremost, a grievous sin against God. The key to repenting of bitterness is to take every thought captive, replace those bitter thoughts with kind, tender-hearted and forgiving thoughts and go the second mile.  Truly there is nothing that your husband has done that you cannot forgive,  If your husband is not trustworthy, he can re-earn your trust.  Regardless of whether your husband is a failure before God, you do not have to be.

I used to try to get rid of my bitter thoughts, but didn’t understand that I needed to REPLACE them with kind, tender-hearted, forgiving thoughts.  No wonder I struggled so much for so long!


Causes of Bitterness –

  • PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE – I am better than that person.  I am more spiritual.  I am more mature.  I would handle things so much better than they did.  I would NEVER do X like they did.  I don’t deserve what happened to me.  How dare that person treat ME that way
  • unmet expectations
  • idolatry of someone’s approval – then when they don’t approve or try to control, we are UPSET.
  • idolatry of self
  • trying to control others instead of allowing them to be responsible for their own decisions and emotions (idolatry of self)
  • trying to make other people responsible for my emotions, happiness and contentment (idolatry) instead of setting my heart on Christ
  • being different from another person and not understanding where he/she is coming from
  • being sinned against but handling my resulting anger sinfully – or undealt with sin against me
  • disobeying God’s Word for handling conflict in a godly manner (not lovingly confronting someone when they sin against me, trying to ignore it.  Sin CANNOT be ignored!  It must be paid for!  I have to pay for it, or they have to pay for it – or, if I am in Christ, His blood and sacrificial death can pay for it.  But it will hurt.)
  • selfishness
  • unforgiveness – cherishing my anger more than my relationship with Christ and His forgiveness of me
  • jealousy

Signs of Bitterness

  • feeling tense about that person, anxiety about seeing them
  • depression, insomnia (if you are thinking and thinking and obsessing about the wrong suffered) – other things can cause depression or insomnia, too, but bitterness alone can be a cause, or it can be a contributing factor.
  • lack of self-control – yelling, swearing, cussing, hateful tone of voice, sarcasm
  • broken, dysfunctional relationships
  • chronic pain can be a sign of bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment and can be made worse by lack of forgiveness.  Bitterness changes our body chemistry and makes us more sensitive to pain, it also reduces our immune system measurably and makes us more prone to infections.  The increased cortisol and adrenaline can cause a host of illnesses-  headaches, ulcers, insomnia, irritability, heart problems, increased blood pressure, digestion problems, IBS, and many more! (All of these health problems have possible other causes, too.  But bitterness can contribute to or cause these things.)
  • wanting to avoid the person
  • wanting vengeance
  • worry
  • fear, lack of faith in God (without faith, it is impossible to please God!)
  • wanting to gossip about the person
  • not praying for the person
  • replaying the wrong over and over
  • making hateful jokes about the person, with a prideful attitude of superiority and conceit
  • jealousy
  • withholding physical intimacy (in marriage), withholding affection (in relationships with children/parents/extended family, refusing to hug or shake hands.
  • refusal to smile at the person and greet them
  • fear – fear of confrontation or fear the person won’t care about my feelings, fear of conflict or someone else’s control or abuse
  • focus on person or self and not God’s character and sovereignty
  • being annoyed by everything about the person
  • hatred and evil intentions

Fruit of Bitterness

Bitterness starts out small, but grows and strengthens and can totally consume a person’s life.  It leads to greater and greater sin and contaminates many others with its poison..

  • hatred, malice, contempt, rage, plotting evil, major disrespect, screaming, cussing, yelling, hateful words, destruction of relationships, resentment,  wanting the person to be dead, violence, murder, war
  • gossip, slander
  • separation, divorce (bitterness is not always the cause of these things, but it is often a huge part of the cause)
  • adultery (out of a desire for revenge, or because bitterness causes a spouse to withhold sex from the other, this can lead to temptations for both spouses)
  • anxiety, worry, overwhelming fear, dread, depression, possibly even suicide if left unchecked
  • pride, arrogance, condemnations, judging the other with evil thoughts
  • a critical spirit, complaining, arguing, discontent, lack of gratitude
  • division, disunity, factions, arguing, fighting, yelling, loss of self-control, loss of temper
  • idolatry of self/pride/anger/bitterness/unmet expectations
  • an inability to put any faith or trust in the person, vilification of the person
  • lying, dishonesty, deception
  • jealousy
  • feuds, bullying
  • a seared conscience eventually, that can no longer hear God’s voice
  • vengeance and revenge, wanting to make the person pay, not depending on God to handle justice and vengeance
  • a desire to take anything good from the person, stealing, arson, attempting to sabotage the person and his/her livelihood/income.
  • separation from God, the grieving of God’s Spirit, the loss of God’s power and all of the fruit of the Spirit – no joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.
  • a huge stronghold of Satan, sin and the flesh
  • attempts to cause other family members, friends, coworkers, church members to hate and turn on the person, also
  • total loss of influence and witness for Christ, smearing the name of Christ in filth (if we claim to be His followers), others may be turned away from the gospel, especially our spouse and children


You are welcome to leave comments, insights, wisdom and resources that have been helpful for you on this topic!

We will explore more about overcoming bitterness and unforgiveness and  how to begin the process of forgiveness with God’s power in the next few posts!

I am praying God will release us all COMPLETELY from every trace of bitterness that we might live in His glorious light, freedom, truth, peace and joy!  He is perfectly able to give us complete victory over bitterness and empower us to forgive as He does!

52 thoughts on “Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

  1. Thank you peaceful wife. You know, before I married, a personality & character test stated that I was in the “peaceful country” category. Well that changed big time over the course of 3 married years. God began to reveal to me areas of bitterness in my life, places of wounded ness, and oh it has been so hard at times, and grievous. I really love my husband, he is a blessing and gift to me, and he loves me, we both love God and I have seen the damage that bitterness and anger, Sin can bring. It destroys love as you mentioned, it divides, and separates the best of friends. Particurally the sin of bitterness can ruin love in marriage and any relationship. I am reminded of God speaking in Genesis 4:7, He says to Cain, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” God has shown us what we must do to be victorious over sin, do well, and master it. As you stated, we must go that extra mile, the “second” mile, we must be the one to appologilze first, and to forgive. I will be honest, sometimes it is sooo hard. BUT, being quick to forgive, surrender to God, and love the other person instead though is definetly the better way to go. I am still learning, still growing up, (I’m in my late 30’s) and I need all of Gods help, but I believe He sees my efforts, yours and others to here reading, and He will help us to overcome. The key as you said, is in His Word. I like the idea of catching, taking captive every thought, lies even, and purposely replacing them with the truth. You mentioned Martha Peace, love her, and I am reminded of another great woman of God Danette Crawford, I recommed her and for you to look her up, she so encouraging and inpirational. She is also a Minister of the Gospel, an international Speaker, Mother, and Author. She started low, and God has raised her up, so high. I know her personally and thank God for her. She has many, many wonderful testimonies I am sure you would love. She is a wonderful testimony of the goodness of God. She is a woman of example to the body of Christ as one who has done it right too. In her life she had many opportunities to become bitter, and sin in her anger. She could have not trusted God, but she did trust God, and that is why God has raised her up and used her to impact so many lives for the kingdom of God. She is a blessing, as you are. I am reminded of her speaking on a radio show just the other day regarding what God had spoken or revealed to her in her early years, and it was so good. She said that God revealed to her to, “doubt your doubts, and face your fears.” so she said every time a lie or doubt would come, like her bills won’t be paid for, she won’t have any food to eat, she would say, “I doubt that.” I was like wow, that is so awesome. She, like you have spoken, replaced the lie with truth, Gods Word. The Word is God, and that is the only way to truly defeat the enemy of our souls and the lies that war for our lives. I want to encourage you to keep doing what is right, which is what you are doing. God is using you in more ways than you probably realize to help so many women in their marriages and others in thier relationships. As you are faithful to honor God, and be obedient to Him, you will continue to see more and more (abundant) fruit and blessings in your life. Thank you, and God bless you. (You can learn more about Danette here: ~ Amy

    1. Amy,
      Thank you for sharing your heart and for the awesome resources! I appreciate that so much!

      I am really excited about sharing more detailed steps in the next day or two about how to overcome bitterness.

      For me, I have to really dig down and expose every evil thought and every sin that the bitterness has born. And match it all up against God’s Word.

      Thankfully, this week, it was just a little tiny root that was still in my soul, and God was able to help me get it out in a few days. And I already see so much more of God’s power, freedom, peace and joy! That is what I want for all of us.

      Thanks for reading. I am excited to see what God has done in your heart and marriage and what He plans to do!

      Much love to you!

  2. Yes, forgiveness becomes the light for ourselves and others. It is helpful, as you say, not to equate forgiveness with trust. That makes it much easier to recognize its total positive nature and releases any feelings of vulnerability it might bring up. Thanks for the lovely post.

  3. Wow, very thankful for this post & looking forward to the following “how to” ones. I have been struggling with a hurt for many years. I have really tried 2 let go but feel like there is something still there. It’s regarding a person that lives in another country so I don’t see them often, they come 2 visit family that goes 2 my church. I have asked God 2 help me sincerely let go but I can feel it tugging at my heart still. Some of the symptoms you mentioned I did not realize were from bitterness. I really desire 2 be completely free for once!

  4. Happy New Year!

    I’m really glad I came upon your blog and this post. Bitterness is a daily struggle for me due to a series of hurts from the past few years, some of which were caused by my sinful reactions to the sin of others. Not just in my marriage, but in other relationships as well. I really want to let it all go, and while it’s so hard, forgiveness is what God expects of us.

    I look forward to reading your posts following up on this discussion.

    God bless 🙂

  5. I see things in myself that I’ve been brooding over in my mind about…the wrong I’ve suffered and it still hurts very much that I need to get over and past it because I’ve just been hanging onto it, the more I think on it I become bitter and more bitter toward my husband, then I’m giving him.the cold shoulder, then he’s asking me what’s wrong? Then I’m mean, cold with my actions and tone of voice, standoff. Sigh) bitterness is so ugly!!
    Great topic!

    1. Amy,

      It is ugly.

      The book Grace Filled Marriage by Tim Keller is super helpful. And The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace has a long list of bitter thoughts and godly thoughts to replace them with. Very helpful, too!

      1. April,

        Firstly I am starting at the beginning today, and made promises recently to my husband to ‘work on’ forgiveness and let go of bitterness and resentment. rather than ‘work on ‘ these things, I want to just ‘do it’, but it is not that simple.
        I saw today that you mentioned about the mentoring wives programme and the list of requirements below was more than enough for me to follow you and your (God’s advice)advice, step by step. I thought to myself that I didn’t necessarily need a mentor as you did this on your own with God, but I was also super tempted to respond and volunteer and say ‘me, me’, I need the counselling, but actually reading the other wives journeys and the comments, really supports and helps me. So I am starting here and just have one question, what if I forgive and replace bitter, negative, thoughts and then my husband does ‘it’ again (we have blended family issues). I really do try and am usually settled and contented, get started with respect etc. but then out of the blue he may do something which hurts me (and my daughter) and I have to go about forgiving all over again!
        I spoke to the pastors wife very briefly about this (without any detail) and she said that when someone sins against us we have to forgive over and over, and that it is tough, but that is what we have to do.
        Surely there comes a point when you have to say ‘no’ I have been hurt too much now, go away, (or something similar!)… I worry because I just cant bear the thought of him letting us down again (we have had certain issues for 7 years now) it is getting easier now my husband is coming to church and seeking the lord. but I really struggle with overcoming bitterness, forgiving, only to have to keep doing it over and over again! sorry for long, post xx praying for your eyes my sweet sister x

        1. JuR,
          Great questions, my precious sister!

          Can you please give me a rough estimate of how many times God has forgiven you in Christ?

          Let’s look at what Jesus has to say about this issue when Peter asked Him:

          15“If your brother or sisterb sins,c go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’d 17If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

          18“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will bee bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will bef loosed in heaven.

          19“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

          The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

          21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

          22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.g

          23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of goldh was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

          26“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

          28“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.i He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

          29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

          30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

          32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

          35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

          AND Matthew 7:1-5:
          1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

          3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

          I would encourage you to do a search of all that the Bible says on forgiveness. Here is a link to when you search “forgiveness.”

          This is a CRITICAL topic! Until we really understand the depths of our own sin, the “billions of dollars of sin debt” that we owed to God, the way Jesus completely paid our debt IN FULL for us due to no merit of our own and we understand the GRACE, MERCY and FORGIVENESS we have received – we are unable to give grace, mercy and forgiveness to others.

          I would also highly recommend “Grace Filled Marriage” by Dr. Tim Keller.

          You can also search my home page for:
          – forgiveness
          – bitterness

          Much love!

          1. Thank you April!
            I very much appreciate your reply.
            I have started reading ‘love and respect’ by Emerson Eggerichs and I will also get Grace Filled Marriage.
            I know that I really have to keep forgiving and God has (and is doing) many miracles in my marriage and family. Your blog is a huge encouragement to me, I am still learning, I have a long way to go, but I am not giving up. I really need to make some changes, I made many changes last year, but then went back to some old habits, I also need to keep forgiving and replace those ‘old thoughts’ on a daily basis. I think I am going to need to focus on God a lot more than I have, I was also asking for the same thing over and over again and not even thanking or praising God, I am a rubbish Christian! xx much love to you and the other wives xx

  6. Thank you for giving an activity I can use to combat bitterness. This is a helpful tool to practice taking my thoughts captive in obedience to Christ.

    “keep a brief log of your bitter thoughts. each time you feel hurt or resentful, write down your thoughts word for word. Then take the time to go over each thought and convert it to a kind, tender-hearted or forgiving thought. Take each thought captive in obedience to Christ.”

  7. Ah! I’m a mess with bitterness and really had no clue! I’m grateful for this blog about it. Read they part one. Ready for more. “Critical heart” shot out at me when reading the lists. A biggie for me. God bless you! Thank you for writing these things out bc I’ve been hiding and suffering and lashing out and blaming for years and have been completely miserable and not hearing God. It’s no wonder now.

    A heartfelt thanks again!

    1. Amy Ruth,

      You are most welcome. Unfortunately, MOST of us – even Christian women – are living this way, filled with bitterness. And then we reap the awful consequences. I pray God will set you free from this bondage and that He might continue to heal your heart for HIs glory!

Comments will be closed for Lent from 2-14-18 through 3-28-18.

%d bloggers like this: