I’ve been reading Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney and I really could put the whole book on the blog [It’s THAT GOOD! I recommend it for all women and it was recommended to me by godly women that I respect and trust], but this portion of the chapter was very, very convicting and provided real life-giving hope at the same time. She is a very wise woman, and I have been thankful for her practical wisdom during this new season of marriage.
If you’ve ever been wronged by someone close to you, wondered why one word from a husband or friend hurt more than you think it should have, if you’ve ever stewed over an argument and replayed a hurtful conversation over and over and over again, if you’ve ever wondered how you could love someone so much and then turn around and hurt them in the next breath—this post is for you.
“None of us should presume to be impervious [immune] to the sin of bitterness. Author Jim Wilson explains the nature of this particular temptation:
Bitterness is based on sin that somehow relates to you. It is not concerned with how big the sin is; it is based upon how close it is. For instance, if some great and gross immorality occurs in another country, what do we do? We might be appalled or amazed, but we do not feel bitter. Nevertheless, it was an awful sin and someone actually committed it. So it does not depend on how great the evil is; it depends on how close the other person is to me.
Who are likely candidates: The answer is simple: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children, roommates, co-workers and other relatives. There are many people who are bitter against God.
Bitterness is based upon someone elses sin who is close to us, and who did something to us. It might be minor. It does not have to be great; it just has to be close…You may think you have a right to be bitter. But the Bible does not grant anyone the right to be bitter. [Eph 4:31 says to get rid of all bitterness].
As wives and mothers we must be especially wary of developing a bitterness towards those in close relationship to us. For they will surely wrong us in small ways and significant ways. Because of sin, they will say and do things that inflict pain. In these moments we must be on guard against bitterness.
We should not be duped into thinking that we merely suffer from a case of “hurt feelings.” While “hurt feelings” aren’t equivilent to bitterness, they usually don’t remain “hurt feelings” for very long. They can rapidly metamorphose (transform, grow) into bitterness.
So how do we know if we have become bitter? If we habitually review the offender’s wrong, if we replay the episode over and over in our minds, if we wallow in self-pity or withdraw our affection, [or demand that they somehow pay back or “know” the depth of our hurt and pain BEFORE we forgive them]—chances are we have succumbed to bitterness.
To knock down the barricade of bitterness, we must heed the instructions in Ephesians 4:31-32 to “Let all bitterness be put away from you be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”
We deal with bitterness by cherishing the experience of being forgiven by God and by forgiving the wrongs committed against us. In C.J. Mahaney’s book The Cross Centered Life, he makes the following observation:
When I become bitter or unforgiving toward others, I’m assuming that the sins of others are more serious than my sins against God. The cross transforms my perspective. Through the cross I realize that no sin committed against me will ever be as serious as the innumerable sins I’ve committed against God. When we understand how much God has forgiven us, it is not as difficult to forgive others.
Instead of dwelling on how we’ve been wronged let us entreat [ask, beg, pray to] the Holy Spirit to help us look at the cross. As we meditate on the undeserved mercy of God in forgiving our sins, we will freely grant forgiveness and kindness to those closest to us who sin against us.”
Carolyn Mahaney Feminine Appeal “The Rewards of Kindness” Pages 122-123. All parenthetical emphases are mine.