There are two types of bitterness. One type breeds a response that is damaging, and may be sin. The other type is a reaction to the pain in life, and breeds no damaging response; it can breed life. This paper will examine some aspects of both.


Definition of Bitterness

Bitterness is the state of unrelenting hurt, anger, and/or outrage over a perceived or real loss, a lack of gain, an outrage caused by another or others, and/or an injustice. This will be considered in detail.


Unrelenting means continuing without stopping, with the same irritation. If a child asks for a glass of milk over and over and over again, because the milk has not been given, and no answer has been given, both the child and the mother or father can become angry. The child’s request is unrelenting. It just won’t stop until there is a reply.


If one has a headache, and the aspirin won’t take it away, the throbbing is unrelenting. In the same way, bitterness has to do with unrelenting hurt, anger, and/or outrage. Outrage means very strong anger over something which seems just so very unfair or contrary to justice. Perceived means what something seems to be.


Suppose that Johnny is hitting Sue. Their mother comes in and sees this. She perceives that Johnny is doing wrong, and she becomes angry at Johnny. She later finds that Sue had been tickling Johnny to the point of really bothering him, and he responded in the only way he knew how to respond. When one perceives something as true, it may or may not be true. Bitterness in life often forms from such responses.


Bitterness may be from what seems as an unfair or unjust loss. It may be unfair, or it may be fair─but the bitter person definitely thinks it is unfair.


A person may become bitter because he didn’t get what he thought he should get. This is the perceived lack of gain.


A person may become bitter because of the cruelty of others, the death of loved ones, racism, jealousy, envy, and many other events.


What is Bad Bitterness?

Bad bitterness is used as an excuse to do violence. Say that Johnny hits Sue. Sue then picks up Johnny’s favorite truck and smashes it on the ground, ruining it. Sue has taken vengeance on Johnny. The word vengeance means personal or group punishment for a supposed offense, harm or crime for which restitution cannot or will not be made.


One may take vengeance on the other who did the supposed offense, or he may take vengeance on someone else who seems related. Vengeance is very dangerous. There are times when it is right, and there are many times when it is wrong. Sue was wrong when she smashed Johnny’s favorite truck. She would have been right if she had gone to their mother, and had asked her mother to take care of the hitting problem.


When a person who commits murder is found guilty, putting that person to death is right (according to the God of the Bible). This is a right form of vengeance.


Folks with bad and wrongful bitterness often desire to take vengeance or see vengeance on someone. They want to ‘get back at’ someone or a group. Some folks don’t care who gets hurt as long as someone who seems related to the cause of their bitterness will be targeted. They sometimes don’t even care if they, themselves, get hurt or killed in the process as long as they are successful in hurting or killing the ones they hate. This is the mindset behind Middle Eastern and Islamic terrorism. Since the gods won’t or can’t take vengeance, followers of the weak god feel the need to do vengeance for the god. (Folks with a strong god or God never need to help their god/God.)


Thus, bad bitterness includes hatred.


Not all hatred is bad; some forms are right. It is right to hate those who love to hurt others, who love to lie, who love to make others become guilty of wrong-doing, etc. The Bible teaches this in Psalm 5 and in Psalm 11, as well as in Proverbs 6, where we see that God hates such people:


Psalm 5:5 The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight. Thou hatest all workers of iniquity! 6Thou shalt destroy them that speak lying! Yehovah will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.


Psalm 11:5 Yehovah tries the righteous. And His soul hates the wicked and him who loves violence.


Proverbs 6:16 Yehovah hates these six things. Indeed, seven are an abomination unto Him: 17a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises thoughts of lust, feet that are swift in running to mischief, 19a false witness speaking lies, and he who sows discord among brethren.


Hating someone, therefore, isn’t necessarily wrong, but being gracious to that person is most often the right thing to do. How can this be done? If one treats a mean person graciously (except when defending innocent victims from the mean person), this can sometimes turn a mean person from the meanness. If the person is doing violence against a victim, it is also gracious to stop the mean person from hurting others if that is possible.


Personal vengeance (vengeance for one’s self) is not right. One can defend one’s self against an attacker; this is right. Vengeance for oneself is from bad bitterness, however.


What Causes Bad Bitterness?

Bad bitterness comes from pride. Pride is either having a higher or lower view of one’s own rank than what is true, without properly viewing one’s own responsibilities, or having a proper view of one’s own rank and responsibilities, but not living that way. A person who thinks that he is more than he really is shows pride and arrogance. A person who boasts, and says that he can do more than what he can actually do is prideful. A person who thinks he is more important than he really is arrogant. But also, a person who thinks that he is no good, low-down or stupid is also prideful! If a person thinks that he is special in any way, either over others, or below others, is prideful! The reason is this: such a person is self-centered. This means that such a person thinks about himself, not about others. He concentrates on how good or how lousy he is, rather than on benefiting others. Anyone who is self-centered tends to not care about others, and such a person is prideful.


A person with bad bitterness thinks that he is special and that his anger is special. He thinks about his cause and his fight as being more important than anything, including justice. Justice is rendering a right decision based on all the facts. A person who is bitter in a bad way does not care about facts; his view is right and cannot be wrong (even though it is wrong). It often does not matter who gets hurt as long as others feel the bitter person’s pain! Those with bad bitterness are very mean, and they don’t even know it. They are very angry. They get angry very quickly for no justifiable reason. They are certain that they are right.


Anyone with bad bitterness wants others to feel the same pain, or more pain, that he feels! It would not be good enough to just make peace. Peace alone is not the objective. The objective is to hurt others. If the others are the ones at whom the anger is aimed, fine! But if the others are not involved, that is often fine too, because this draws more attention to the bitterness.


Suppose Johnny is at school. And say that Mary took Johnny’s pencil, and broke it, then laughed. The teacher came in, so that Johnny couldn’t do anything. Johnny is really angry. Mary later goes to another class, and Johnny can’t go after her. He is really angry. He is bitter. Sherry walks up. Johnny is angry with Mary, but Mary is gone. Sherry accidentally bumps Johnny, not meaning to do it. Johnny gets intensely angry very quickly, turns, and pushes Sherry down, hurting her. He then walks off still angry. He has taken vengeance on Sherry for his anger against Mary! Yet, he is still angry with Mary! Then, when the teacher comes, gets Johnny, takes him out of class, and makes him sit alone, Johnny becomes very angry with the teacher, too! He has bad bitterness. He is proud. He sees himself as being more important than Sherry, whom he hurt. He sees himself as being more important than doing right. Yet, he feels like he is being picked-on by everyone. He has a low view of himself. This is still from the same pride!


Now, suppose Tim is in the same difficulty, and suppose that Mary broke Tim’s ruler. Tim is angry, but he thinks about it. He will get a new ruler. And he knows that Mary, for some reason, is mean, but he won’t permit Mary’s meanness to make him mean. Sam later comes and also picks on Tim, making fun of his hair. Tim just looks at him and says nothing, thinking that he is just trying to make him angry, but it won’t work. Later, when Jane drops her book, Tim picks it up for her, and hands it to her. She thanks him for that. Tim has responded in a good way. He has a right view of himself in terms of others. He is not proud.


There is no way to be bitter in a bad way without being proud. Prideful individuals can easily become bitter. Humble individuals, those who know their true rank and responsibilities before others, and insist on living that way, won’t ever become bitter in a bad way. They may suffer many wrongs against them, but they won’t become bitter. They will do well in life.


Is There Bitterness that is Not Bad?

There is a bitterness that is not bad. In the book of Ruth in the Bible, there is a woman named Naomi. Her husband and her two sons died soon after getting married, and they had no children. Naomi had lost practically everything during a famine. She was about to go home with nothing except two widowed daughters-in-law. She was bitter, but not in a bad way. She stated,


Ruth 1:20 Call me not Naomi {My Pleasant-One}; call me Mara {Bitter}. For the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21I went out full, and Yehovah hath brought me home again empty. Why will ye call me Naomi, seeing Yehovah has humiliated me, and the Almighty has bad-done to me?


She was right. She would soon see Yehovah turning things around for her in a most excellent way! In the meantime, she refused to take vengeance on anyone or harm or mistreat anyone, including Yehovah. She was only gracious. She feared Yehovah! She did what was right. Her bitterness was caused from the pain of loss and grief that she felt for herself and for her two daughters-in-law all the time. Naomi had no pride. She did not see herself as lower than others or as higher than others. She saw her responsibilities, and she did them on behalf of others. Anyone who takes her attitude and fears Yehovah will do well in life!


How Can One Get Rid of Bad Bitterness?

In order to get rid of bad bitterness, one must first get rid of pride! (That is extremely hard for a prideful person to do, because a person with pride usually is too proud to admit that there is pride!) He must admit that he does not properly see his own rank and real responsibilities, and he is not living according to his real rank and real responsibilities.


The next step is to carefully consider what has really been happening. In the case of Johnny above, if he had considered that Mary is probably mean because she does not know better, and because she is very bitter and angry too, Johnny might be able to respond kindly toward her. It could be that if he did, she might begin to treat him better. Even if she didn’t, she might soon get caught in her meanness, and face the teacher! Johnny also didn’t see that Mary wanted him to become mean so that Mary could feel better about herself! Mean people sometimes feel bad that they are so mean. They press others to do things to look bad so that they can feel better about themselves. If Johnny truly wants to ‘bug’ her, he could treat her very well, and watch her really struggle!


After considering what is happening and how it is affecting oneself and others, the next step is to make something good (constructive) out of what is bad. The best and most allowed form of vengeance is kindness to one’s enemy. This takes a lot of work and energy, but it can truly make all the difference in the world.


Being kind to a bitter enemy sometimes isn’t possible. If the Bible is Truth, Yehovah will deal with the enemy at a later time. When He does, vengeance will be much stronger and more appropriate than anything that any person can do.


Refuse personal vengeance. That belongs to Yehovah.


Don’t let an enemy possess your mind! One who is bitter in a bad way is almost always thinking about the object of the bitterness: the mean person or persons who did the supposed wrong in the first place. A person whose mind is possessed is a slave! There is no freedom of thought when one’s thoughts always go toward one’s enemies!


Talk with someone who is wise about the way you feel. Make sure that that person is not one who says, “Yeah, you are right! You have a right to feel that way!” That is not a wise person. Rather, talk with someone who will help you come up with good ideas how you can overcome your bitterness.


Warning: Do not try to fight the feelings. Your emotions are given as a gift from God. Don’t fight them. Rather, Do Good. Proper feelings will follow much later.


National Vengeance

Countries take vengeance on criminals; this is right. This is not from bitterness. The Almighty (Yehovah) has given countries the right to do this. Countries have the right to fight against enemy countries and enemy individuals.


Some wars are right, and some wars are not. Countries have a right to go to war. Individuals may disagree with their own countries regarding a war. Some may even fight against the actions of their own countries, as some Germans fought against the mean and cruel Nazi government in Germany during World War II. It is right to fight against wrong violence of your own country’s leaders if your country’s leaders are fighting against the God of Israel and against the Israel of God. If your country’s leaders are not commanding you to do wrong, however, it is not right to fight against your own country’s leaders.


A person who claims to believe the Bible needs to very carefully think about all these things before doing something that might be wrong. Daniel, in the Bible, was a leader in a country that had taken the Israelis captive. He served that country’s leaders very well, and was loved and respected by the leaders. Daniel feared God. He never tried to take vengeance on his enemies. He saved some of their lives!


In the book of Esther, Esther asked for the right of the Israelis to defend themselves, against enemies who were going to kill all Jews. The King gave the Jewish People not only the right to defend, but to get rid of their enemies! This was vengeance, and this was right!


There are times when vengeance is right. As you think about it, you will begin to see the difference.



If you suffer from bad bitterness, or what seems to be unrelenting anger, bad bitterness is always against a god/God, and it is from pride. Do something about it—something good, beneficial and kind. Do right!


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