Bitterness is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. Like a cancer, it eats away at your soul, poisons your life, and slays your spirit. Yet, even as it continues its rabid destruction of the heart and mind, bitter people don’t recognize it and will not admit to being bitter.
It’s because you don’t become bitter overnight. It’s not a fleeting emotion like annoyance or short-lived anger that you can quash immediately should you want to. Bitterness seeps into your psyche slowly and stealthily, turning into a pernicious attitude that distorts your perspectives and affects your dealings with other people.
What causes a person to become bitter?
The root of bitterness is hurt, and a sense of injustice that you feel has been done to you. That hurt causes anger and resentment towards the person or persons, or even towards the God you believe in. But instead of letting go, you hold on to the hurt and anger until they pollute your present thoughts with memories of what happened. It’s akin to watering the weeds instead of the good plants in your garden, and in the end, the weeds conquer the soil and kill the plants.
Here’s what bitterness does to you:
1. You lose the joy to live. Each morning, you wake up with dread instead of anticipation. As a result, you become cynical, critical, cheerless and pessimistic.
2. You are constantly sad and you find it difficult to laugh at jokes or amusing stories. Even inspiring tales of real-life happenings don’t make you happy. This pervasive sadness ultimately leads to depression.
This loss of joy and lingering sadness come from the perception that you have been wrongfully hurt and you hold on to it hoping that someone will right the wrong and give you justice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen all the time, and you indulge in self-pity.
3. Your relationship with your partner, family, friends, and co-workers will be negatively affected. Because of your negative attitude, you enlarge every small mistake. You even see wrongness in actions and words where there are none because of your clouded and bitter perspective.
4. You are always angry. Unfortunately, your anger caused by the person who has hurt you, extends to other people. You find fault in little things and berate them or keep the anger simmering inside you, and neither is healthy. You have a vengeful mind, forever plotting of ways to get even.
5. You always put the blame on others. Accusation differentiates bitterness from persistent sadness. When you are bitter about a failure to achieve something, you point the finger at others and blame them for your downfall.
Be it at home, with friends, or co-workers, you are unforgiving and critical. Your bitterness emanates from you like a foul odor, repulsing other people. Eventually, friends stop associating with you and even your marriage may be at risk.
6. Bitterness can bring on illnesses. Researchers at Concordia University have found that chronic and intense bitterness can cause biological dysregulation, affecting your immune system, metabolism, and organ functions.
7.. Bitterness causes mental disorders. Some experts even believe it should be a mental condition by itself. Holding on to bitter feelings leads to depression, stress, anxiety, and other psychosocial inappropriate behavior.
How to not be bitter
It takes courage and self-honesty to admit that you have become a bitter person. Accepting the hard truth is the first step toward stopping the bitterness from destroying your life.
1. Learn to forgive.
Your first reaction would probably be “Never!” Not only because you have been hurt so much but also because bitterness has become your constant companion and it’s not easy to let go of it. But think about it. Forgiving the offender is good for you. It releases you from the bondage resentment, hatred, and hostility. According to one Catholic saint, forgiveness is surrendering the desire for revenge. Here are some issues to remember about forgiving someone:
- You don’t have to tell them you forgive them.
- Forgiving someone does not mean they didn’t do anything wrong.
- Reconciliation is not necessary for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not a matter of exonerating people who have hurt you. They may not deserve exoneration.”
2. Develop the habit of meditation.
Meditation done daily for 25 minutes will raise awareness of your surroundings and the people around you. It focuses you in the present, and you learn not to live in the past or be anxious about the future. It develops in you a nonjudgmental approach to people and circumstances.
The benefits of meditation don’t come instantly. Most times, you may not even be aware of the changes in yourself. But your family and friends will notice and appreciate you more for it. Start by setting aside a daily schedule for meditation, find a quiet place, be still and silent, banish all thoughts from your mind, and say a mantra.
Practice forgiveness and start meditation. These two alone are powerful enough to get you out of the black hole of bitterness.