How to Let Bitterness Go

Christ Brings PerspectiveToday I want to look at the difficulty of releasing any hurt or bitterness we feel due to the sins someone we are trying to reconcile with” may continue to commit against us.

I want to stress, this is for the person who has chosen to forgive an offending spouse, has emotionally and spiritually worked through the often lengthy forgiveness process, and is now working on reconciling with a repentant, yet “flawed and human” spouse/offender.

As you might guess … just because you’re working toward reconciliation, doesn’t mean your spouse will never offend you again. And it may actually sting more because you’ve worked so hard and come so far! But that pain should only remind you that you and your spouse are rebuilding something immensely valuable, albeit very fragile.

I’m going to speak from my own experience as a “sometimes offended” wife

This issue always used to trip me up and sometimes still does. How can I forgive and reconcile (in an emotional sense) with my husband on a particular wounded issue (let’s say, his harsh and angry tone), when he still occasionally does this?

I wonder, am I being an enabler when I forgive him? Or worse, am I a glutton for punishment, if I let my guard down? You can refresh your memory on what to consider in this kind of dilemma at my “Amends What Do They Look Like” post.

But today we’re exploring how we can deal with the fear and bitterness that comes creeping back in our hearts when our spouses re-offend accidentally or even intentionally.

Here’s the short answer – We forgive as Jesus forgave us.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” -Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)*

[Tweet “We have no right as redeemed followers of Christ to withhold what has not been withheld from us!”]

So when I struggle to let go of my bitterness or hurt, I pray and ask God to give me eyes to see how I’ve offended and sinned against Jesus, my Savior. This immediately brings perspective to my distorted thoughts and feelings. It enables me to humbly stand alongside my offending hubby and extend to him the gift of mercy and grace that has been extended to me from God.

You may think … is it really that simple?

If you’ve come this far in the reconciliation process … then “yes,” I think it is! That’s because ultimately …

[Tweet “Christ’s sacrifice for our sins is the great equalizer.“]

Does this mean you shouldn’t address the re-offense? No! Quite the opposite! In fact, if you’ve allowed Christ to alter your perspective through the lens of His forgiveness for you, then you are now ready to “graciously” address the re-offense. Now you are able to lock arms with your spouse and confront the “issue” instead of condemning your spouse.

Let me be clear, if the re-offense you’ve experienced is a “deal-breaker” such as, infidelity (in all forms) or abuse, then an intervention with a counselor is absolutely necessary! When your spouse commits or recommits a sin to that degree, you will have to reevaluate with your counselor whether reconciliation is possible at this point.

 

What fears or concerns do you have about extending forgiveness in this sense to your spouse or repeat offender?

 

What has helped you to let your bitterness and fear go in a wounded relationship?

 

Check out last week’s post in this series from the perspective of the offender – “One Attitude Keeping Us from Reoffending.”

*This doesn’t mean that we lose our salvation if we don’t forgive, but it does mean we hinder our relationship with God when we hold on to our anger and bitterness.

Signature - Beth Blessings

 

 

 

 

 

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  • I can, I must let bitterness and fear and resentment go. I must do it because all I have to do is look in the mirror and see my own faults staring right back at me. I receive grace from Him. And that I must pass on. Thanks, Beth, for this power-filled series you’ve set before us …
    Hugs.

    • You and me, both! Trying daily to let Christ shift my perspective from my hurts to the forgiveness He’s extended (and continually extends) to me each day! Can’t help but love a God like that! Hugs to you!

  • Have I ever told you about the devotion I read several years ago that put all of this in perspective for me, Beth? It said marriage is God’s laboratory for learning to love another imperfect person the way God loves us. I’ve kept that concept close to my heart for many years now, trying always to default to remembering my husband is flawed, just like I am, and that means he will hurt me sometimes, just like I will hurt him. But in the end, what matters is how we love and forgive through the imperfections. So much easier said than done! But without God’s perspective on marriage, how can anyone stand? Love your words here once again, my wise friend! Hugs to you!

    • Sounds like a very interesting devotional, Becky! I agree totally with that truth. In fact, that was one of the main points of the conference my hubby and I went to last month. They reminded us that our marriages are a reflection of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). That really brings into focus for us flawed human beings the sacredness of marriage. Certainly if we understood that our response would always be a forgiving one, like Christ. Thanks always for your kind words in this place, my friend!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    There are times when you have to let the bitterness go, even though the wounds have left a scar, and the broken limb is compromised. Conventional ‘feel-good’ PopPsych says you’ve got to let go the hurt for yourself, but that’s not really true.

    You may have gone through everything, all the counseling and prayer and self-help…and your mate still doesn’t get why you’re hurt.

    You’ve got to let go of the hurt, even if it’s ongoing, because it affects the contribution you make to the world. It’s not a “benefit for me”. It’s a DUTY.

    You may have to accept the fact that you might never feel the same way about your spouse as you did before. Possibly. You may have to limp through life wondering what happened to the couple that was in those romantic photos from a few short years ago.

    It’s terribly hard, like looking at a picture of yourself before an accident. In 2001, I ran my right arm through a planer, and severed all the muscles in the top of the forearm.,I had a good surgeon, and have about half of the mobility of my right hand.

    Did Imourn the loss of fucntion? Sure. Did I resent the accident? Definitely.

    And then I had to get back to work, as best as I could. It’s bearable. And I still had a job to do.

    And sometimes, when all the dust has settled, a bearable marriage isn’t all that bad.

    You can still witness for Christ, even if you’re limping.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/06/does-this-make-me-look-fat.html

    • That’s so true. Andrew. Forgiveness has so many implications for all of our lives and all we relate to. And as image-bearers of Christ, how can we not live and die like He did–sacrificially. Every week you share a bit more of your story with us, Andrew, and it always amazes me how you are rising above it all. God truly is raining his grace down on your head and we are blessed to hear it!

  • Nan

    I haven’t really had experience with this in my marriage (thank the Lord) but have had in other relationships. It’s kind of like “I heal and you make it bleed again.” Each time you start to heal the re-offense rips the bandaid off, so to speak, and makes it “bleed” again.

    But there is a learning curve or whatever you want to call it. We have to give the person time to change and God time to change them. And we have to be quick to forgive and allow them to change. It’s a process. Thanks for hosting today, my friend, and hope this finds you doing well.

    • Hey there, sweet Nan! I’ve not been around your place on Monday’s since I’m trying to scale back on my blogging a bit this summer, but I’ve missed you! Your analogy is spot on! It can be extremely painful to trust someone who continues to hurt us. And yet we must balance that with being patient in the process of change. Often we expect so much more than is realistic. That’s why it’s so important to have godly counselors, mentors, pastors and friends who can help us see what is true and what is false or wrong. Thanks so coming by! Hugs!

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  • My motives Beth have always been to please God, be happy, enjoy my marriage, receive forgiveness and make eternity with God. Thanks for sharing on this very foundational issue, have a super blessed day!
    Love

    • You truly are a godly woman, Ugochi! And God is using your strength to help those who are not as strong–and believe me, there are many who are not as strong in the Lord as you are! I appreciate you, my friend!

  • Mary

    This post has given me an insight into another relationship that caused a huge rift in my life. It wasn’t a personal relationship but a work one. What struck me is that the person involved is someone I might not see again to follow through on this process but your tweet above “we have not right as redeemed followers of Christ to withhold what has not been withheld from us”. Simply a punch to the gut – in a good way. I have been working on letting go the bitterness completely but realize that if the situation is brought up by others, some of the anger is still there. I am holding onto God’s gift of grace as I learn how to let go and let God! You, my friend, have a beautiful day! Love ya!

    • Yes, it’s been something of a punch to the gut for me as well, Mary. I’ve been reading through the Sermon on the Mount lately and Jesus really raises the standard in every area of life. When I really stop to hear what He’s saying, it convicts me to the bone! I’m feeling some progress in some bitter feelings I’ve been working to let go. I pray that God continues to help me “let it go!” Love ya!

  • Kim Adams Morgan

    Hi Beth, Love this post. Bitterness can be a poison in us, and all around us if we let it. I didn’t realize I was holding onto some myself many years back. I was, and it changed the way I acted toward others. We have to let go and let God take over. When I did, I was amazed at the results. My faith has grown because of it.

    • Yes, you bring up an important point, Kim. Sometimes we don’t see the bitterness we’ve been holding on to. Anger often has a way of blinding us to our true thoughts and motivations. At least it can distort them. But the closer I draw to Christ, the more I see this distortion and the anger is uncovered. That’s probably what happened for you too. I’m glad God revealed it to you and that you are growing stronger, my friend! That’s so encouraging to hear!

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  • I hope many people find this series. You have done a superb job on it (and I know, with the help of the Holy Spirit.) I love what you wrote on your graphic. When my husband offends me in little ways (thankfully) I will remember the things that you shared. I work hard at not becoming bitter as it can creep into my heart over the slightest offenses. I also try to remember that when I think a something is my husband’s ‘fault’ to hold that lightly because too often it has turned out to be my own fault!

    • Thank you so much, Judith! I appreciate your kindness to me each week. I love your humility too regarding being at fault. That’s the way I want to think when others offend me too. Not sure I’m doing it as much as I’m thinking about it, but I’m a work in progress! 🙂 Hugs to you!

  • Made to Mother

    So much truth! I love your blog, love your weekly link up and I love that you were able to link up at Made to Mother this week as well! Thank you and have a blessed weekend!

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