A photo capturing an open Bible with highlighted verses on forgiveness, love, and kindness, juxtaposed with a shattered mirror symbolizing the destructive consequences of spiteful actions.

What Does The Bible Say About Being Spiteful?

Spitefulness is a sin that can deeply hurt others and damage relationships. If you struggle with feelings of resentment, bitterness, or the desire to hurt someone who has wronged you, what does the Bible say about overcoming a spiteful spirit?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Bible clearly teaches that Christians should not be spiteful. We are called to forgive others, bless those who hurt us, and overcome evil with good.

In this comprehensive article, we will examine multiple Bible passages that provide godly wisdom and instruction for dealing with spitefulness. We’ll look at the root causes of a bitter spirit, learn what Scripture teaches about vengeance and forgiveness, and discover practical ways to replace spite with Christ-like love and compassion.

Defining Spitefulness and Its Root Causes

The Heart Issue Behind a Spiteful Spirit

A spiteful spirit often stems from an inward bitterness, resentment, or anger towards others. When these toxic emotions are left unchecked, they can overflow into outward actions meant to hurt or punish those we feel have wronged us.

As the Bible says, “The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream” (Proverbs 18:4 ESV). In other words, our words and actions flow from the abundance of our hearts.

At the root of a spiteful spirit is often a lack of love, grace, and forgiveness – critical elements of the Christian life. We are called to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32).

However, when we harbor resentment and fail to forgive others, it poisons our own souls. Spitefulness attempts to even the score through retaliation, but this only leads to more hurt and fuels the cycle of bitterness.

The cure for a spiteful spirit starts with honest reflection through prayer and examination of our hearts. We must identify the source of bitterness and anger through the lens of God’s Word, and release it to Him while choosing to walk in love and forgiveness towards those who have hurt us.

This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us.

How Spitefulness Destroys Relationships

Spiteful words and behavior can deeply damage human relationships. When we seek to hurt others out of bitterness and resentment, it causes emotional wounds in the recipients of our spite and pushes them away relationally.

Even if the other person seems to “deserve” retaliation, spitefulness only breeds more conflict and brokenness. As 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV) says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.”

Here are some ways spitefulness tears down relationships:

  • It erodes trust between people when harm is intentionally inflicted
  • It provokes anger and hurt feelings in the victims of spite
  • It sparks a cycle of retaliation that leads to increasing relational damage
  • It causes others to put up walls in self protection from future harm

If left unchecked in a marriage, family, friendship, workplace team, or church body, spitefulness will decay relationships sometimes to the point of complete brokenness. It is like a spiritual cancer that slowly eats away at the tissue of human relationships.

That is why overcoming a spirit of spite is vital for healthy relationships that reflect godly love and grace. We reap what we sow – if we sow seeds of bitterness and resentment, we will reap a harvest of brokenness. But if we sow mercy and forgiveness, we allow the Spirit to bring healing.

To learn more, check out these resources:

Bible Verses on Loving Your Enemies and Forgiving Others

Turning the Other Cheek Rather Than Seeking Revenge

One of the most well-known teachings of Jesus is to “turn the other cheek” when someone harms you. Rather than seek vengeance, Jesus calls us to show love and forgiveness even to our enemies. Here are some key Bible verses on this topic:

  • “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39)
  • “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
  • “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

    (Romans 12:17-19)

  • Rather than seeking to “get even” with those who have harmed us, Jesus calls us to break the cycle of violence and harm by responding in love. This is incredibly difficult to do, but it is a key teaching that sets Jesus’ kingdom ethic apart from the world’s ways.

    The Importance of Forgiveness in Overcoming Bitterness

    Closely tied to the teaching to turn the other cheek is Jesus’ repeated command to forgive others. Forgiveness is essential for overcoming bitterness and resentment when we have been hurt or offended. Some verses that emphasize the importance of forgiveness include:

  • “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
  • “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  • “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
  • Forgiveness is often a process that takes time. But the Bible reminds us that it is essential for our own wellbeing—holding on to bitterness and anger only hurts us. As we choose to release others and forgive as God has forgiven us, we will experience freedom and peace.

    What an amazing example Jesus provides in forgiving even those who crucified Him!

    Practical Ways to Replace Spitefulness with Christ-like Love

    Praying for Those Who Hurt You

    When someone has hurt us, our natural reaction may be to harbor resentment and wish ill will on that person. However, Jesus calls us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Instead of stewing in bitterness, we can bring that hurt to God in prayer.

    Ask Him to soften your heart and give you His love for that person. Pray that God would bless them and work in their life. Releasing the desire for vengeance to God can free you from spitefulness.

    Doing Good to Those Who Mistreat You

    It’s counterintuitive, but extending kindness to those who have wronged us can powerfully combat spite. “Do not repay evil for evil,” Romans 12:17 instructs. Try baking cookies for the coworker who gossips about you. Offer to babysit for the neighbor who never waves hello.

    Show generosity without expecting anything in return. Not only can this diffusing tactic make your “enemy” ashamed (Romans 12:20), but it can change your own heart as well. Remind yourself that Christ-like love seeks the good of others, even at personal cost (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

    Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit

    Spitefulness often springs from our own spiritual deficiencies-insecurities, jealousy, need for control, and more. The antidote is developing Christlike character through the power of the Holy Spirit. As Galatians 5:22-23 describes, His fruit includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

    Make time each day to read Scripture, pray, worship, and fellowship with other believers-activities that invite the Spirit’s transforming work. Also memorize uplifting Bible verses to counter spiteful thoughts. God can infuse you with supernatural love to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).


    In conclusion, the Bible clearly instructs Christians not to allow spitefulness and bitterness to take root in their hearts. Though forgiving others and showing grace to your enemies is extremely difficult, Scripture promises it is the only path to freedom from resentment and healing for damaged relationships.

    As you daily choose to pray for those who hurt you, return good for evil, and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate His love and compassion in you, a spiteful spirit will melt away. The transforming power of God’s great love is the only cure for overcoming evil with good.

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