Poisonous Root

Hebrews 12:15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

You may be justified in your bitterness, but it still contaminates everything.

You may have every right to not forgive certain people in your life. But you need to know bitterness contaminates everything. It spreads far and wide and deep.

And maybe the most dangerous and destructive thing about bitterness is that it doesn’t remain isolated to the source of bitterness, but spreads to all of your relationships. Left unchecked it will ruin everything that is important to you.

I love what my friends, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite wrote in Deadly Viper.

You see, when you don’t forgive someone, you let them park in your life forever. These people are like parasites that can suck the life right out of you and allow bitterness to rot you out. If you let these people and their actions haunt your thoughts, emotions, and spirit, you allow them to continually damage not only you, but those around you, too.

Almost everyday I come in contact with people who are allowing unforgiven anger and bitterness from their past to destroy them today. Unknowingly their unwillingness to forgive is impacting their marriage, the way they treat their kids and their attitude toward most everything in life.

I’m not going to pretend like forgiveness is always easy because we all know it isn’t. Some of you have been hurt in ways I can’t imagine.  Someone wounded you, or betrayed you or lied to you or maybe cheated you.  You’re afraid if you let go of the hurt, they get away with something.  And you’re right, to forgive you will pay a high cost.  In fact the only thing that will cost you more than forgiveness  is not forgiving someone.

I know you want to see them hurt back, but that desire is a weight or burden that actually becomes a part of you. You’ll carry that weight from relationship to relationship, from season to season and if you carry that bitterness and anger around long enough it will choke the joy out of your life.

It costs a lot to forgive. But to not forgive will eventually cost you your heart.

28 Responses to “Poisonous Root”

  1. Nicole Smith says:

    Wow! Such powerful words, and something that we often forget. Honestly, I’ve never thought of forgiveness like this, but you put it perfectly. It costs more to not forgive than to forgive.

    • Pierre Quinn says:

      I agree holding on to what ever happened is much more work than letting go. Despite being harder we still do it. Thank God for His love to help us to forgive and pastors/counselors to reach out to.

  2. Frank says:

    Thanks for the gut check!

  3. Joe Pote says:

    Powerful words, and so true! To forgive is to give up our right to hold a claim against the person who wronged us. To not forgive is to give up our right to live our lives free of the shadow of that wrong.

  4. You Know Who says:

    I have stood on the banks of justified anger. Unforgiving, unwielding, wounded, and nearly destroyed from abuse as a child at the hands of a male family member, then as a teen by a deacon of our church, as a young adult by other men, who I let continue the cycle because I believed it was all I was worth. Oh I know all about feeling justified in my unforgiveness. I also know, that this unforgiveness kept me from being free. Unforgiveness actually shackles you to the very thing you want most to be free from. When I forgave my abusers I allowed those shackles to fall off. My forgiveness of the transgressions doesn’t get them “off the hook” (only God’s forgiveness can do that). However by forgiving them, I am saying I freely give up my “right” to be angry, I am turning them over to God. In the beginning, every day it was literally a choice I made. I would pray, Dear God, I don’t ‘feel’ forgiveness towards these people, but today I choose to forgive. Please help me to feel in my heart the choice I have made.
    It took time. But God knows our hearts, I was sincere in my desire to forgive and today I am able to say I not only make the choice, I feel it as well. I no longer ache for justice.

  5. Gary Howell says:

    Great post. I would add that after forgiving someone, you’ll most likely find that days, weeks, or months later you’ll need to forgive them again because you think about what happened and suddenly anger and bitterness spring to life again. Forgive and then forgive again each time this happens.

  6. Lance Lockhart says:

    Yesterday was a great message, thank you. In connection with this series I keep thinking about the freedom that is reminded to those who keep seeking it. So many times we find just one layer of freedom, but we truly need to keep seeking on another level. Thank you for the prompting to continually trusting God.

  7. Beth says:

    I struggle to the degree to which forgiveness is performative. Odd since I’m prepared to accept bitterness is ‘just there.’

  8. Shane says:

    So true Pete. I had an event happen in 1997 that would forever shape my life. After some time had gone by I decided it was in the past and nothing could change the past. I could not hope for a better past. I swept it under the rug and didn’t speak of it. That event surfaced like a serpent from the abyss 12 years later and sent me into a tailspin. Instead of turning it over to God. I went to the only solution I knew of “Alcohol”. It almost took my life. It took a marriage, my faith, my peace, and my heart. I hit bottom and turned to God for forgiveness to the person who could change the person I had become. I had to forgive MYSELF. I have been sober for 14months and life has never been more beautiful. Your message was such a great reminder of where I was and where I am today. Thank You very much..my prayers go out to those who haven’t forgiven.

  9. I once heard it put it this way: Holding onto bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

  10. liz says:

    Very true….but I have one caution. Be very wary of labeling someone ‘BITTER’. It will makes it seem permanent. When all ‘sin’ is temporary. Thank God. Unless of course you believe it is permanent.

  11. Jason says:

    Well said, Pete.

  12. Sharon Lamoureux says:

    May The LORD ever Be gracious to you nad your loved ones!

  13. Pierre Quinn says:

    Forgiveness is tough but not forgiving can making the difference in growing closer to God. I’ve experienced how not forgiving someone has affected all my other relationships. The longer we hold on to our grudges the more control we give others over our lives. Sadly enough may of them have moved on and not thinking about what they’ve done while the feelings continue to fester inside us. Thanks for your insights.

  14. Joe Pote says:

    It may be worth mentioning the difference between forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness must be freely given, whereas trust must be earned.

    Just because I forgive someone does not mean I have to trust them. It simply means I will no longer hold the wrong agaianst them, and will pray for God’s best in their life.

  15. Emily Stanley says:

    Thanks for sharing this with millions of people. I know I am guilty and I know that I have to rethink and change my attitude and forgive many people. Not easy, yet I know God commands us to forgive and not judge. Thank you!

  16. Sherie says:

    I have heard over and over again that we need to forgive not just for others, but even more so for ourselves. I deeply believed that was true until I was brutally confronted by the unforgiveness of others. I have never experienced such pain, and it has made holding onto my own heart and commitment to forgive them so much harder. We do need to forgive others, to release them, and to allow them the chance for freedom and hope. When we allow a bitter root to grow it infects everything. I have learned so much about forgiveness and wholeness, and despite the opposition and indifference I still live with I have found forgiveness and a love for my enemies that brings me actual joy and hope. I never thought it would be possible, but the Lord is amazing and He does miracles every day!

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  18. […] Poisonous Root by Pete Wilson […]

  19. Wow, the visual even without your awesome post sends the message home. I love how it shows that though the bitterness may be hidden below the surface in the earth (and in unforgiving hearts) the bitter fruits will be visible for all to see and taste (just like the actions and words of a bitter person). Thanks for reminding us once again that we just have to forgive, let go and let God.

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