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By Chuck Henry
rev. 5/9/2015



Table of Contents



Bitterness (Gr. Pikria)

Being Hurt and Being Bitter

Analogous to an Injury in the Flesh

Thinking about the Past vs. Reaching Forward to What is Ahead





All of us, at one time or another, deal with thoughts from painful and very disappointing events. This is part of the human experience. Scripture reveals that bitterness is not a good thing. For example, the book of Hebrews states:


Heb 12:14-15

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Master:

15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of Yahweh; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.


But, is it actually bitterness to simply feel hurt when going through a painful experience? And is it bitterness to recall the hurt from a previous painful experience? Let us take a closer look at bitterness in the Scriptures.




In the KJV New Testament, the word translated “bitterness” is from the Greek pikria (Strong’s G4088).


Ephesians 4:31 says:


Eph 4:31

Let all bitterness [pikria (G4088)], wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.


The entry from Strong’s Dictionary states:


4088. pikria, pik-ree'-ah; from G4089; acridity (espec. poison ), lit. or fig:--bitterness.


Acridity is a word that most of us probably don’t hear very often. It derives from the word acrid. In checking the definition from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we find—



1: sharp and harsh or unpleasantly pungent in taste or odor: irritating

2: deeply or violently bitter: acrimonious <an acrid denunciation>


Origin of acrid:

modification of Latin acr-, acer sharp — more at edge

First Known Use: 1712


-- “acrid,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Accessed: 10/25/2012


Matthew Henry commented:


By bitterness, wrath, and anger, are meant violent inward resentment and displeasure against others.


--from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Accessed via PC Study Bible software.


Note the word “violent” in the information from these two sources.




With the benefit of the preceding information, I am persuaded there is a difference between the basic senses of feeling hurt as compared to deep, violent bitterness.


Any person who has lived very long can probably recall events when they were deeply hurt and very disappointed. It is part of life.


Consider these two examples of events that can cause hurt and disappointment:


1)      When a person has been wronged by someone else.


2)      When a person has lost a very close loved one.


In the latter case, generally speaking, there is no wrong-doing at all, and yet, there is still hurt due to the loss of a very close loved one.


Now, either case could lead to bitterness, but is it bitterness for a person to simply experience hurt and later recall such an experience and still remember the hurt? No. Evidence shows this does not in itself constitute bitterness. Even though the “b” word (bitterness) seems to get tossed around a lot, I believe it is unfair to accuse such a person of bitterness. However, if the situation is such that the person is consumed by harboring ill-intent and burning, violent anger, this, I believe, is what constitutes bitterness.




As with an injury in the flesh, the wound will, with time, heal and scar over. Interestingly, the scar will always be there. When you look at it, you can remember the events that precipitated it. This is actually a beneficial reminder to use caution and avoid repeating the accident. However, if you pick at the wound, keep it open and festering, it could develop a bitter infection – possibly bad enough to cause amputation or even take your life!




Having stated the foregoing, I hasten to point out the following:


Although we sometimes have thoughts about events that have hurt us in the past, we should be careful how much time we spend thinking about them and should not continually dwell on them. It is a weight too heavy to bear and it can lead to bitterness. Paul said he forgot those things which were behind and reached forward to those things which are ahead while pressing toward the goal—


Phi 3:13-14

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Yahweh in Messiah Yeshua.


Even though we sometimes sail rough waters in this life, our primary focus should be to reach forward to those things which are ahead and press toward the ultimate goal.


Also consider that the fruit of the Spirit is not bitter fruit—


Gal 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.




While we should exercise caution about how much time we spend dwelling on things from the past, we should nevertheless also realize the real-life situations which people experience. As stated at the outset, all of us at one time or another deal with thoughts from painful and very disappointing experiences. If a brother or a sister in the faith truly has fallen into bitterness, then of course there is a need to lovingly admonish them to cease bitterness.


Nonetheless, it is reasonable and Scriptural that hurt can be experienced and recalled without involving bitterness. All of these things should be taken into account before assigning the “b” word (bitterness) to a brother or sister in the faith.