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.Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)
A friend of mine took his family on a cross-country road trip. He packed up his wife, two teens, probably some clothes, and headed off towards the East Coast. A little over two weeks later, he arrived back home. I got a chance to catch up with him about the trip, curious to see how it went. The dude unloaded. Everything went wrong. The kids were complaining about being in the car so much. The wife didn’t like his choice of hotels. Everything cost way more than he thought it would. The places they visited didn’t look like the pictures online. It was complaint after complaint after complaint. When he was done, I stated what I thought was obvious, “So, the trip stunk, huh?” His answer still has me shaking my head. In all seriousness, he said, “No, we had a great time.”
Maybe you’ve met, or know someone like this. They claim that life is great, but all they do is complain about everything. Something is always wrong. The Bible calls this bitterness. And, to be honest, it’s like a cancer in the Christian community that we call church.
During my years in the business world, I took lots of seminars on customer service (how to relate to people). One of the statistics from those classes that has stuck with me is this: It takes seven compliments to overcome one negative statement. In other words, bitter words are seven times more powerful than positive words. And, bitter words only make life miserable for everyone else, not just the person who is spewing forth bitterness.
As Christians, we have no reason to be bitter. We have Jesus Christ! But, often times we waste time complaining or lamenting about things. What’s worse is that this bitterness is contagious – bringing down others. That’s why the writer of Hebrews states, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
So, today, and every day, examine what you communicate. Is it bitter, or is it positive? Does it lift others up, or bring them down? Does it imitate the character of Jesus, or does it imitate the character of His enemy? If it is the later, pull bitterness out by the root. Speak words of encouragement, hope, and love. And do it seven times more than you complain.