You should not put out a beach bonfire by shoveling sand on the flames. Sand locks in the heat and the smoldering coals get hotter and hotter. I learned this the hard way when I stepped on a hot spot and scorched my bare foot, and there is a picture of bitterness. Paul says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31), each word inflicting more damage. Bitterness is buried hurt, a wrath waiting to ignite. The burst of anger seems to come out of nowhere, but it was laying in wait just under the skin. Left unchecked comes clamor, a loud attack of anger. I want to hurt you, physically if necessary. Then slander, I want to hurt you deeper, emotionally. We’ve heard, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The guy who made up that little ditty was an idiot. I know I’m not supposed to say idiot, but apparently words don’t bother him. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, words do the greater damage. Lastly comes malice–I just want to hurt you. Period.
The point: stop it early. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Do not bury bitterness. It does not smother, it smolders. Deal with it. Today.
Paul tells us to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), and Jesus describes what that might look like, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). You and your brother (or sister) are not actually alone, however, because Jesus adds, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). These are the times when we need Jesus most. Thank You for being there, Jesus.
My Father, let no corrupting talk come out of my mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Help me be one who imitates You, who is ready to forgive, as You forgave me, who is tenderhearted, who seeks unity. May I walk in love, may I look like You.