This post is part of a much larger project  exploring the Biblical concept of “bitterness,” looking at all the occurrences of the Hebrew and Greek words as they’re used throughout the Bible.

This is important, because the accusation of “bitterness” is often used to shame and blame and silence victims and survivors of abuse. (I’ve been listening to many sermons and reading articles and books to that effect.)

I believe the Bible makes it clear that bitterness definitely doesn’t always mean what we’ve been led to think it means.

Note October 2016  Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind, has devoted a chapter to the truth of the “root of bitterness,” reworking the information in this blog post and adding many quotations, both from those who teach it as a tool of shaming and blaming those who have been oppressed, and from those who have understood it to mean what is presented here.


plant rootsHebrews 12:15 is one of the most often preached-on passages of Scripture to tell victims and survivors of abuse that their primary—and perhaps only—problem is unforgiveness. Here it is:

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;

that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble,

and by it many become defiled;

People are told that their continuing to be troubled by their abuse is evidence of a “root of bitterness” in their lives, which will defile others.

So . . . how can we avoid being like the sermonizers and writers who simply assume that the “root of bitterness” there is unforgiveness? How can we figure out what it really is?

We can do this by looking at the Old Testament passage it’s referring to, by looking at the grammar, and by looking at the context.

This entire post has now been moved to BJUGrace, so you can read it there. 


Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.




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