Bitterness is caused by thoughts arising from our lower nature. If there is a root of bitterness in you, and you respond to others with bitterness, which locks into the bitterness in them, then you have a bitterness “ping-pong” game going back and forth and everyone is defiled.
As a child, you could have been exposed to someone else’s bitterness, often from a parent or teacher. The bitterness in them wanted to connect with you and they did or said something to make you a victim.
If you’ve ever been abused, you’ll know that thinking about your experiences can draw you into your lower nature, judging yourself and your abusers.
Rejection can lead to bitterness. Ask yourself:
- Who has rejected you?
- Who have you turned your bitterness towards?
We can see bitterness played out in this familiar cycle. The husband is criticized for something he did at work; so he comes home and yells at his wife; who yells at the children; who yell at the dog. Soon everyone is yelling; no one is listening; everyone’s feelings are being hurt; rejection starts to build and turn to bitterness, leading to estrangement.
Without Divine Education, gleaned from daily reading the Writings, we may not know how to act any differently. We’re just following the example we’ve been taught, perhaps blaming it on our culture (I’m Italian. It’s just the way we are), without realizing it’s a spiritual issue and can be changed.
A better scenario would have been for the husband to turn to God with his hurt at work, so that he could come home and be fully present to his wife and kids. If he missed that opportunity, and still came home and yelled at his wife, he could have taken responsibility for his anger and apologized, asking God’s forgiveness first, then hers, and then the children’s (for setting a bad example). When we confess our sins, and trust in God’s forgiveness, we are able to walk in the light, and have better relationships with those around us.
How bitterness unravels:
Bitterness doesn’t start all by itself. It starts when someone does something you consider unforgiveable, and things start to unravel from there.
Unforgiveness ensures you are never going to forgive. It keeps reminding you of the supposed wrong done to you, rehashing what was done, projecting it on the screen of your mind and tormenting you with it’s film stuck on “replay”. This doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But it gets worse!
After Unforgiveness ferments your mind, and torments your life, resentment rushes in. The record of wrongs keeps fermenting. Resentment fuels the fermentation of Unforgiveness. It accentuates and accelerates. This is the beginning of a permanent breach between the two of you. Many times Unforgiveness is an intellectual thought because it is just in the memory but then resentment comes in to fuel to the fire. You feel resentment in your innermost being. But it doesn’t stop there!
After unforgiveness and resentment have gained their foothold, the next thing to follow is retaliation. This is much more dangerous than the former vices. It is a progressive hierarchy. This reality probably accounts for 99% of mankind’s problems.
What reinforces retaliation? Resentment.
What fuels resentment? Unforgiveness.
What is the root of it all? Bitterness.
Your lower nature is having a field day, driving progressively thicker veils between you and God, and driving you further and further into the prison of self! But it doesn’t stop there!
When retaliation has established itself within you, anger and wrath come next. Unforgiveness, resentment and retaliation can be hidden, but anger starts to show physically. Anger and wrath never occur unless unforgiveness, resentment and retaliation have been festering for some time. You get angry because of the breach, the hurt and the victimization that allowed unforgiveness, resentment and retaliation to get their foothold. Retaliation is internalized long before the act of getting even. Retaliation sets the stage to produce the elimination of a person in relationship. It is the root behind all family splits, all divorces, all division, and all breakups of human relationships.
Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)
After anger and wrath have gained a foothold, hatred comes. Hatred not only has the root of Bitterness, but it is being fueled by Unforgiveness, Resentment, Retaliation, and Anger and Wrath. Now begins the stage of elimination of the person that you hold in Unforgiveness.
When you see Hatred in someone, you know they have clothed themselves in the garments of anger retaliation, resentment, unforgiveness and bitterness and you know that the person is trusting in this armor instead of God’s protection.
Bitterness is counting on the fact that when you are ready to forgive, Unforgiveness will pull up thoughts, sights, sounds and smells to remind you of the wrong done to you.
The next level of Bitterness is Violence. Violence is Anger in motion because it is not just emotional anymore; it is not just spiritual; it has now become physical. You can see Violence every day if you just look at families. You can watch the progression of the breakup of human relationship caused by Bitterness.
The final level that completes Bitterness is Murder, not just physical murder (as in homicide or suicide) but emotional (as in gossip and backbiting) and spiritual murder (as in resignation from the Faith) as well.
For more in this series: