Spotting Signs of Bitterness
What are the warning signs of bitterness? As I list off some of the most common signs of bitterness, ask yourself as a grace-energized wife or mother (and everyone else reading) are you showing any of these signs of bitterness?
It is really not that complicated to recognize that bitterness has set in. Let's think of some of the characteristics of a bitter person:
- They show a lack of concern for others. A bitter person cares very little about anybody else.
- They're very sensitive and touchy. For instance, if a bitter person walks into a room where two other people are talking, and those people get quieter as he walks in, the bitter person thinks, “They're talking about me.”
- They tend to avoid meeting new people, show little or no gratitude at all, and usually speak words of empty flattery or harsh criticism.
- They hold grudges against people, often for a long, long time. They find it extremely difficult to forgive.
- They often have a stubborn or sulking attitude.
- They end up experiencing mood extremes - very high and happy one minute, and the next thing you know, they're so low they can reach up and touch bottom.
- Bitterness can be called the seed of Hell because one of the worst things about bitterness is that it doesn't stop… it keeps getting worse. It may only start as a little seed of hurt, but then it grows and festers into a very dangerous thing. 
Bitterness is one of the more deadly cancers of the spiritual life of the believer. If you are infected by bitterness, get out of your self-imposed prison now, don’t stay in a moment longer. Paul said that the Spirit of God, in the power of Christ's cross can set you free. The escape route has been marked for us by the One who should have had all the reasons in the world to be bitter but was not.
Getting Out of the Bitterness Trap
Have you ever noticed that line in the Lord’s Prayer? Often we have said it so many times we skip right over it. “Forgive us God the way we have forgiven others”. God wants us to forgive others and not cultivate bitterness. Forgiving others isn’t denying that they hurt us, or ignoring it either. Denial is mindless foolishness, God wants us to face real problems with real solutions from His Word.
Getting out of the bitterness trap starts by honestly confronting hurts in our life—and as those energized-by-grace, doing something about each hurt-induced wound!
Here are some basic steps.
1) Make a list of the people who've hurt you. This is always easiest for us because that is what we remember the best—the offenses others commit against us. Just jot names and things they have done to hurt you. Here are some typical hurts: “My parents didn't keep their promises.” “They gave more love and affection to other members of the family.” “My dad took out his bad temper on me.” “My wife tries to make me into something I'm not.” “My friend wasn't there when I needed him,” etc.
2) Make another list of the things you have done to hurt them. Whoa, this is the hard part. Pride effectively edits our memories of the wrongs we do by shifting the blame, hiding our guilt, and so on. Our flesh likes our faults to stay hidden from others, so pray and ask God to shine the light of the Spirit upon your heart and expose ways you have harmed others.
One of the hardest things to do is to really clear the debts between parents and children. You could put down things like: laziness, ungratefulness (when was the last time you ever thanked your parents - just called them and thanked them?), deceitfulness (what have you done behind their backs to make them distrust you?), etc.
Making a list of those I have wronged is vital. Only when we agree with God about our sin, and see it as He sees it—can we be forgiven (I John 1:9). One of the results of making such a list is that we find that in most of the ways that we have been hurt—we hurt others. My pride maximizes others faults and minimizes mine. This exercise will bring reality into focus.
3) Take a good look at how you have hurt the Lord. Now we are at the most important place in our grace-energized journey out of bitterness. This is the most life-changing step. Get down on your face before God and ask Him to reveal all the ways you have hurt Him. God's Word says He is grieved when we sin. Do we miss that terrible truth? Spurgeon said, “For it is an inexpressibly delightful thought, that He who rules heaven and earth, and is the creator of all things, and the infinite and ever blessed God, condescends to enter into such infinite relationships with his people that his divine mind may be affected by their actions.”
Each area the Spirit convicts you about, revealing where you have grieved God, confess and forsake, making no excuses to God. God said Christ's blood cleanses away our sins not our excuses. We are transformed as we see that though God has been deeply hurt (grieved) yet He loves and forgives us and NEVER gets embittered towards us.
People closets to us can hurt us the most—right? Now as a believer think about who knows every thought, hears every word, feels every emotion we have ever had. God does, right? We have the potential to hurt God so much, and we do. Yet He forgives. Because He forgives He demands that we must do so also to all who hurt us.
The Bible says that “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” (Genesis 6:6) The phrase “heart filled with pain” literally means ‘to have difficulty in breathing’. God made this beautiful creation, and then He sees people not only hating and killing each other, but hating Him, too. And all that hurt goes deep, deep into His heart. We forget that God has a perfect memory. We only see a little bit - He sees it all, continuously. We only live a short time - He lives forever. When God looked at the world He made, He gasped with pain and horror. It hurt Him.
4) Pray, and ask the forgiveness of God and man. Now comes the simplest and hardest part of our task. Get alone with your list of how you hurt God and others and ask God to work in your heart. One by one confess them to God, then ask for and receive His forgiveness for every thing you have listed (and more as He reminds you). Then you need to tear up that list and get rid of it. Just doing that is a picture of how God wipes out, erases, washes clean, and removes our sins. Then you need to get in touch with those you have hurt and either by letter, email, phone, or in person ask for their forgiveness.
5) Destroy your files. Finally, there is one more vital step to take. There is still a copy of that list, it is in your mind. God says that He can also wipe that file clean. Hebrews 9:14 and 10:22 say that the blood of Christ, through the Eternal Spirit will purge your conscience from things that defile, and will allow you to get close to the Lord with a pure heart, confident you are right with Him, and as much as is possible with others.
Open the filing cabinets of your mind, take out all the files, and get rid of them. Tear up your list and burn it. You must release it all to God. Forgiveness is opening the filing cabinet before God and clearing the debts. “I'm not going to hold this against them. I'm not even going to keep a record of it.”
No record. That's what God does with you. Do you want Him to remember and recall all the debts He has cleared you of? You do the same.
The Bible says, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6.14-15)
It's a choice you must make in response to God's offer of forgiveness to you. What will you do? 
For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit discoverthebook.org.