Thursday, August 18, 2011


Bitterness has been on my mind for a few weeks. The dictionary defines bitter a number of ways. It can refer to taste, a painful sensation, something difficult to accept, exhibiting strong animosity, expressive of severe disappointment or marked by resentment. The reason it has been on my mind stems from a chance remark someone with a very sweet nature made to me that was so rancorous and bitter that it took my breath away. The remark was not directed at me or about me but it was still so full of intense bitterness that I could think of little else for the rest of the day. It ruined my day and had me close to tears every time I thought back on it.

I thought about the circumstances that were the root of the bitterness, I thought about how many years the bitterness had be held onto and nursed and I felt as badly as if I had been the one to have caused them to be bitter. In truth, I was in no way involved and likely, the person never realized how much their bitterness had surprised and hurt me. I think they would be amazed that I had even noticed what they had said.

When I was younger, I would tend to hold a grudge. I still struggle with that from time to time even as I get older but usually I only manage to heave it along for a few days and then I feel silly and let whatever it is that upset me to begin with go and move on with my life. I cannot really point to the time in my life when I decided that carrying a grudge and being bitter were harmful to me and a complete waste of energy and emotion. I can tell you that there came a day when I found myself rehearsing an incident from years earlier and getting angry about it all over again when it hit me that it was ridiculous to hold onto the hurt and the bitterness and the sense of injustice and that I needed to put those things outside my soul. It is not an easy thing to do especially when you feel aggrieved. However, it is so much better for you to get on with your life and it removes the power from the person or situation that caused your bitterness.

You might be wondering why I chose to use a picture of my cousin's two beautiful little girls to talk about bitterness. It is because, unfortunately, some of the worst bitterness begins at home and in families. I have heard grown children speak of their parents in ways that makes me heartsick especially when I happen to know that their parents, while imperfect, did the best they could and were quite good parents under the circumstances. I have heard brothers and sisters talk about the time that their sister or brother got something or other that they had wanted and their sibling had not deserved with as much vitriol as if the disappointment had happened the day before not forty years ago. I have heard parents speak of ungrateful and unfeeling children that I knew were nothing of the sort simply because of a single incident that had been held onto instead of the dozens of happy and loving memories that were predominant. Bitterness is a cancer. If left unchecked, it will spread throughout you and color your past, darken your present and make hopeless your future.

Sometimes people direct their bitterness at God, at the government, at their boss, at life. I have an overdeveloped sense of justice and so I understand when people feel bitterness over injustice. The problem is bitterness solves nothing, achieves nothing, helps nothing. If you continue to hug it close, it will eventually suffocate you under its weight. Cast it away. Get rid of it. Instead pray the Serenity Prayer: Change what you can, accept what you can't and have the wisdom to know the difference.

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