We all have met them. You know, the person who always has a chip on their shoulder. Believe me, it is no fun being around or living with someone who has a bitter personality. And truthfully, the bitter person is also miserable.
You might be wondering:
- What causes a bitter attitude? (PA)
- How do you know if you are bitter? (PA)
- Can I stop being bitter?
The answers to your questions will be covered in the next few minutes.
What is a bitter personality?
Bitter people are not happy people. And because they are not happy, they tend to drain everyone around them. These are people who are angry, often masquerading in passive-aggressive behavior.
But why are they not happy?
Bitter person definition
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, “Someone who is bitter is angry and unhappy because they cannot forget bad things that happened in the past.”
It is true that we live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and thus bad things happen around us and to us.
But not every person ends up being bitter when life is hurtful or doesn’t go the way they want.
Thus we must look for another cause of their unhappiness.
Signs of a bitter personality
I lived with a bitter person for a while. Sometimes their resentment was obvious in public settings, but most of the time the bitterness simmered until they were home. That is when the true colors came out.
So how can you know if you or someone else is bitter? Here are some tell-tale signs of a bitter woman (or man for that matter).
- Always having to be right
- Having unrealistic expectations for others
- Are unable to forgive
- Lacking trust in others
- Are obsessed with past mistreatment
- Can’t let go of anger
- Holds grudges
- Being be nice to people’s faces, and later verbally tearing them apart
- Not wanting to accept advice
- Finding something negative in most everything
Consequences of a bitter personality
With every action, there are reactions. When we throw a rock in a pond, there will be ripples on the water. The ripples are the consequence of throwing the rock.
Equally true, our reactions to being hurt will have predictable consequences. Nothing is isolated. All things are interconnected in one way or another.
When we look at the following consequences of a bitter personality, it is no wonder God warned about it.
“See to it that … no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15 ESV
Physical, relational, and emotional consequences
People with bitter personalities often have unpleasant facial expressions. They can have spikes in their blood pressure as they think about past hurts and injustices. Their stomachs often churn, and their hearts race. It is exhausting to be bitter.
Bitterness also impacts all our relationships. The more bitter a person becomes, the fewer real friends they have. Bitter people blame others for all their troubles. And I have seen bitterness destroy marriages.
And then there are many emotional consequences. People with bitter personalities have many negative emotions. They usually are:
- Rarely experience happiness and joy
Even worse are the spiritual consequences of having a bitter personality.
I have observed people who once were enjoying the love of the Lord gradually and predictably lose all hope, joy, and peace.
Gone was their trust in God, their love for people, and worst of all their sense of eternal security.
What causes a bitter personality?
So what causes a bitter attitude?
Psychology Today says that all bitterness starts out as hurt.
Yet, we can’t point to our circumstances because not all people become bitter about being hurt.
While we can’t control a lot of things in life, we can control how we respond to them. Having a bitter personality is our choice that goes hand in hand with several other choices.
Preventing or conquering a bitter personality
I hope by now we all are convinced that having a bitter personality is not desirable. It causes suffering for everyone involved.
Preventing a bitter personality
After we have been hurt, if we then let our minds replay what happened over and over, we have begun a predictable process that leads to bitterness.
So the first step to a bitter personality is letting our thoughts hold us captive.
Preventing bitterness is simple, though not always easy. Two lifestyle practices must become our way of life. Why? Because bitterness will always be a temptation.
Learning to forgive
You might be thinking, “You don’t know what happened. I have a right to hold a grudge.”
While I don’t know your personal situation and what happened, I do know that many of us have misconceptions about what forgiveness really is.
First, Forgiveness IS NOT:
- Excusing or condoning other people’s bad behavior
- Setting the other person free from the consequences of their wrong doing
- Hugging and staying in a dangerous situation for yourself and your children if you have some.
Forgiveness is all about our healing. We have much to gain when we forgive, even when we are hurting.
The Bible says:
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
We don’t have to make sure the one who hurt us is punished. God will take care of it in His way and His time.
Learning to be grateful
While we may not be glad that something bad happened to us, we can always be grateful that God:
- Still loves us
- Will work out everything for eventual good to those who love Him
- Has given us many other blessings
Gratitude is a way of life. I would challenge you to keep a gratitude journal. It will help you realize that despite the troubles we face in life we still are truly blessed.
Conquering a bitter personality
You may be asking “How do I stop being bitter?” (PA).
Let me assure you that if you already have a bitter personality, it is not too late to change.
The Bible gives us all we need to know about overcoming bitterness. Many of its characters had great reason to be bitter but held close to the Biblical principles of forgiveness and gratitude. The two go hand in hand.
Joseph was treated terribly more than once. His response was, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20
Job lost everything. Yet his response was, “Though he (God) slay me, I will hope in him … I know that you (God) can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 13:15a, 42:2 (explanation added)
David’s life was in danger due to an insane and jealous king. But David trusted God. He wrote, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge … till the storms of destruction pass by.” Psalm 57:1
These are a few of the Biblical characters that trusted God to take care of the outcome. That is the only way we can truly forgive.
While they did not know how, they knew God would bring good from all the bad things that happened to them. (Romans 8:28)
Modern medicine’s approach
It is interesting that modern medicine confirms the importance of forgiveness which is a Biblical principle.
“The path to healing involves forgiveness and finding a way to make peace with what happened so you can move on with life.” WebMD
Jesus is the “way” to make peace with what happened. He is the “way” to live life without a bitter personality.
Important questions we need to ask
How would you answer the following questions? They are where to start to overcome a bitter personality.
- Do you know God personally? Is God your father?
- Have you found forgiveness through Jesus for the wrongs you have done? Forgiveness is much easier when we have experienced it first hand.
- Do you know how to have gratitude even when you don’t feel like it?
A prayer to avoid bitterness
Dear Heavenly Father
I realize that bitterness is destructive in so many ways. I thank you that you have warned us about it in order to spare us additional pain in our lives.
Lord, how I want to do what is right but sometimes it is hard.
When people hurt me I want to hurt them back. I know that desire is not from you. Help me to remember that vengeance belongs to you.
Lord, you gave us such a beautiful example when you said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
If people truly knew you in a personal way, they would not do things to hurt others.
Lord, I ask you to help me because I know that you are where the power comes from to forgive.
I know that I don’t deserve your goodness, love, and forgiveness, and I am so grateful for it. Help me to remember that the people who hurt me also need to know you.
Help me to shine your light in this very dark world.
In your name, Jesus, Amen.
You can download this prayer here.
Having a bitter personality is a personal choice, and the Bible says that sinful choices lead to death (Romans 6:23). That death occurs in many areas of the bitter person’s life.
- Personal joy
- Peace of mind
- Many other areas of life
Some are so miserable, they experience physical death through suicide.
Finally, those with willful, continual bitterness experience death in their relationship with God.
BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS,
With God’s help, we can prevent or conquer having a bitter personality. It is our choice.