The New Testament Greek word for bitterness is PIKROS (pikro,j) and the Old Testament word is MARAR (rr;m'). Both terms refer to the physical human experience of bitterness though the taste sense (I.e. taste cells in the tongue and mouth) as well as the metaphysical human experience in the mind and soul related to thought events.    There is bitterness as a result of coming into contact with something physical (like acid reflux) and there is a bitterness that is the result of contact with mental events (anger, jealousy, implacability, arrogance, resentment, lack of forgiveness, self-justification).      

            Bitterness is an emotional mental attitude sin that occurs when anger is pushed inward until it takes root, producing all manner of trouble and grief including destruction of capacity for happiness and even damage to physical health.  Bitterness is a great enemy of the spiritual life because it tends to lead to other sins such as self-justification, self-righteousness, and vilification.   Coupled with the fact that bitterness is totally irrational (only hurt yourself), the bitter person chooses self-justification for their misery rather than confession of sin and spiritual advancement.  They would rather hold on to, regurgitate, and chew on the gall of their thoughts, than eliminate them altogether.  What they would not do to their taste buds, they do to their thought buds.  Bitterness is nothing but self-induced misery (Job 3:20-21).  


            The solution to bitterness is threefold:  first put away the mental events that cause the bitterness (sins related to arrogance & self-pity, lack of gratitude, jealousy) through confession; second confess the sin of bitterness anytime it crops up; and third keep growing spiritually by renewing the mind (Rom 12:2) through adjustment to the various doctrines related to bitterness as well as doctrines related to grace and gratitude.  Learn to be grateful for God's blessings!  


            Bitterness in marriage occurs from clinging to an unforgiving spirit.  It tortures both you and your partner, ravaging secretly while blocking any attempts to build real intimacy.   Because it operates beneath the surface, it may not be recognized until almost too late.  Bitterness can be removed only through forgiveness which Jesus Christ makes possible.


            Bitterness destroys both marriage as well as the spiritual life.  Bitterness turns love into hatred.  Bitterness turns happiness into malice.  Bitterness turns blessing into cursing.   Bitterness blames God or man of both for one’s bad decisions, flaws, and failures.  Bitterness fuels self-righteousness, self-deception, and self-justification.  Due to the emotional nature of bitterness, it tends to contribute to perpetual carnality.  Bitterness destroys all capacity for happiness in the spiritual life.  A person cannot ever be happy and fulfill the unique spiritual life in the Church Age if he has bitterness.  Bitterness has no capacity for love, life or happiness.  True happiness is in the soul, and the soul filled with bitterness has no happiness.  Bitterness is one of the most irrational sins in that it destroys no one but self – and besides who would intentionally vomit for its bitter taste?  Yet that is exactly what one does with the mental attitude sin of bitterness.  Why chew on something that is so disgusting?  (Self-righteousness?   Self-justification?   Self-absorption?)  Is the taste really worth it?   One may not have a choice when it comes to the bitterness one tastes from what is commonly referred to as a throw-up burp.  However, as believers we all have the power of volition to avoid creating the gall of bitterness in our souls.  We have the power and privilege of filling our souls with other things like the grace of God and occupation with Jesus Christ.  


10 Doctrinal principles on bitterness.


1.  Failure to biblically/doctrinally respond to difficulties leads to bitterness, Lam 3:15, 17, 19; Ex 1:14;


2.   Arrogance is a source of bitterness, Acts 8:23.


3.   Degeneracy is a source of bitterness, Rom 3:14.


4.   Carnality and reversionism is a source of bitterness,  Eph 4:31.


5.    Bitter people are avoided – even by strangers, Prov 14:10.


6.   Bitterness is a result of rejection of Bible doctrine, Js 3:14.


7.    Bitterness and jealousy go together, Js 3:14.


8.   Bitterness is total lack of grace orientation, Job 9:17-18; Heb 12:15.


9.   Bitterness produces stress and complaining, Job 7:11.


10.   Bitterness leads to harsh language against others, Rom 3:13-14.       


Doctrine matters!


PT Don