Bitterness can take a toll
Recent study shows that bitterness can cause physical harm to your body.
I once knew a woman who was so full of bitterness that I believe it literally made her sick. She had gone through hard times in her childhood and as an adult, experienced even more turmoil with her own children. Since she was never able to let go of the things that happened early in her life, each new bad experience was piled onto the last.
Her body ached all the time; fibromyalgia was what the doctors told her it was but they couldn’t say for sure. Many days she simply stayed in bed. She was in her 50s when I knew her but seemed old beyond her years.
The last time I saw her was in 2007. However, I was reminded of her when I read a recent report about how harmful bitterness can actually be to our physical health. When it comes to the poison this negative emotion actually is, it looks like science is coming into agreement with what God’s Word has been trying to tell us all along.
The report explained that experts are now so convinced being bitter does harm to our bodies they are calling for a new diagnosis called post-traumatic embitterment disorder, or PTED. According to these experts, feeling bitter affects the body’s hormonal and immune systems. People who are angry and unforgiving have higher blood pressure and heart rates, making them more likely to die of heart disease and other illnesses. Bitterness affects the body in as real a way as smoking affects it, the report said.
According to the Bible, bitterness not only affects the body of the person who can’t let go, but the people around them as well. Hebrews 12:15 tells us to “Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” (MSG)
Being around someone who is constantly negative can be hard. Without even realizing it, their negativity can rub off on you and put you in the wrong frame of mind. In the home of the woman I mentioned earlier, there was rarely ever a happy or positive moment.
Ultimately, choosing not to forgive is the root of bitterness. As I wrote in an earlier column, some things certainly seem unforgivable when viewed through a “worldly” lens. God expects us to forgive as he forgave us, however; no matter what. Oftentimes, it is only through His love that we are able to let go of bitterness and an unforgiving spirit. Trying to do it on our own simply won’t be enough.
As Proverbs 10:12 says, “hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.” (MSG)
God knew from the moment He created us how dangerous bitterness can be. Forgiving and letting go is as beneficial to us as it is to the person we forgive — if not more so. The scary thing is, many people are prone to being bitter and there is no way to avoid the inevitable moments in life that can cause it. Being angry or bitter for a moment can be justified; letting it control your life cannot.
The saddest aspect of the of the woman’s story is that she may be continuing to hurt herself while the people she won’t forgive have moved on. She, and each of us for that matter, can decide to hold onto bitterness or let it go. We know what God wants for us and that His love is able to cover all wrongs. Whether or not each of us chooses to do that, however, is completely our decision.