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Gary Inrig tells the story of a man who was bitten by a dog that was later discovered to be rabid. Hospital tests confirmed that the man had contracted rabies. This was during a time period in history when there was nothing much to be done after rabies had set in, for no cure had been developed. The Doctor had the bleak assignment of bringing the bad news to his patient. “Sir,” he said, “everything possible will be done to make you comfortable, but we can’t offer any false hope. My best advice to you is to get your affairs in order as soon as possible.” The dying man sank back in depression and shock, but he finally rallied enough strength to ask for a pen and paper. He began writing furiously. An hour later, when the doctor returned, the man’s pen was still flowing. The doctor said, “Well, it’s good to see that you have taken my advice. I take it you’re working on your will.”

“This ain’t no will, Doc,” said the man. “It’s a list of people I plan on biting before I die.”

One of the keys to overcoming bitterness is practicing a life of forgiveness. A lot of times, when faced with the choice of forgiveness, our first response is, “You don’t know what they have done to me.” Nobody else will know or have the same understanding of a situation as you, because everyone reacts to situations in different ways. But regardless of the specifics of each situation, unforgiveness comes from a place of pride, and true forgiveness requires humility. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

When we humbly recognize the hurt we have caused Christ, and acknowledge that He still chose to forgive us despite our sin, it should motivate us to lay aside our pride and forgive others. I am not saying we have to be best friends with those who have hurt us, however, learning to forgive even when others don't ask for forgiveness is a great step in the right direction toward overcoming bitterness.