Bitterness is the product of intense animosity, characterized by cynicism and ill will. Resentment is indignant displeasure and ill will which results from a wrong, an insult or injury, real, imagined, or unintentional. Bitterness and resentment often go together, the dual results of unresolved anger.
Professional counselors reveal that a large percentage of those being counseled today are angry, embittered, and resentful. Bottled-up feelings eat away until some become emotional cripples and physically ill. Their ability to function is impaired, diminishing their effectiveness. They often have difficulty sleeping; and their personal relationships, both within and without the family, erode. Some become so obsessed with the urge to “get even” that they may kill someone. The individual who has deep-seated, unresolved anger is not a whole person.
A classic case of the “grudge and get even” syndrome is found in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1–16). Cain was angry because his offering was not accepted while his brother’s offering was. It really wasn’t a matter between Cain and Abel at all, but between Cain and God, for it was God who had rejected Cain’s offering. But Cain became resentful and depressed. Instead of repenting and asking forgiveness of the Lord, he turned on his brother.
Many times people will share problems of this nature because they are seeking sympathy or reinforcement. They will tell you how they have been misunderstood, maligned, and mistreated, never realizing the sinful implications behind their own behavior. As the story unfolds and you detect resentment and bitterness, treat it as sin.
God’s Word says, “Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language” (Colossians 3:8).
1. As your inquirer reveals the problem, remain neutral. Assure him or her that God’s Word has the solution to any problem.
2. Assure yourself that you are speaking with someone who has truly received Christ. If this is not the case, then Share Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD.
3. If your inquirer has not yet realized that he or she has a problem with bitterness and resentment, or if he or she is aware of it and sincerely wants to find a solution, make sure he or she understands that bitterness is sin. To ignore this will prevent any real solution.
4. Repentance and confession will result in forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God. Share Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION, emphasizing 1 John 1:9. Pray together, asking the inquirer to privately confess to God all known bitterness and resentment.
5. If the above is accomplished, then steps toward reconciliation are in order, especially if there has been accusation, recrimination, criticism, and a rupture in a relationship. Victory comes when matters are solved on both the vertical and horizontal planes. The prize is a “conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).
It is not necessary to make a public issue of it, but Jesus said, “First be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:24).
The apostle Paul advised, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone . . . . ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18, 20-21, NIV). If there is reconciliation, God will be pleased and both parties will be spiritually healed. If, on the other hand, nothing positive happens, the inquirer will have done all God requires. He or she has been obedient and can live with a clear conscience.
6. Urge your inquirer to pray to be filled with love for the other person, whether or not reconciliation occurs: “Love . . . keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4–6, NIV).
7. If the bitterness and resentment are of long standing, and the inquirer stubbornly maintains the correctness of his or her position, share Paul’s admonition: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32, NIV). Ask him or her to reflect on the passage and to pray for his or her enemies in the light of its truth.
8. Pray with the inquirer.
“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).
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:14–19, NIV).
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14–15, NIV).
“When they hurled their insults at [Jesus], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23, NIV).
See also Anger
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996
Bitterness, Resentment, Hate
1. Put away bitterness.
Eph. 4:31. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
2. Quit biting and devouring each other.
Gal. 5:15. But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
3. Bitterness belongs to the sinful nature.
Gal. 5:19. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness.
4. Let no bitter root grow.
Heb. 12:15. Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
5. Joseph’s brothers allowed bitterness to grow into hatred and murder in the heart.
6. Cain’s anger turned to bitterness, hatred, and murder.
7. Hatred is forbidden.
Lev. 19:17. ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.’
8. One who hates lives in darkness.
1 John 2:9–11. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
9. The way of a malicious man is deceitful.
Prov. 26:24–26. He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart; Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
10. Hatred is murder.
1 John 3:11–20.
1 John 3:15. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
 Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.