You don't put out a beach bonfire by shoveling sand on the flames. The smothered coals get hotter and hotter. I learned this the hard way when I stepped on a hot spot and scorched my foot, and there is a picture of bitterness. Paul says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31), each word inflicting more damage. Bitterness is buried hurt, a wrath waiting to ignite, often toward the innocent and unsuspecting who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and said the wrong thing. The burst of anger seems to come out of nowhere, but it was laying in wait just under the skin. Left unchecked, comes clamor, which is the outward expression of anger. I want to hurt you physically. Then slander, I want to hurt you emotionally. You know, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." The guy that made up that little poem was an idiot. I know I shouldn't say that, but, oh well - apparently it doesn't bother him. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, words do the greater damage. And finally, there is malice. I just want to hurt you. Period.
The point: stop it early. "Be angry and do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26). Don't bury bitterness. You put out a beach bonfire by letting it burn in the open air. "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone," says Jesus. "If he listens to you, you have gained your brother" (Matthew 18:15).
My Father, when You said where two or three are gathered together, You are with them, You were talking about those times when we've wronged each other and we are working it out. Those are the times when I need You most, so thank You for being there.
Help me be one who imitates You, who is ready to forgive, as You forgave me, who is tenderhearted, who seeks unity. May I walk in love, may I look like You.