When we think of something that is bitter, we think of something that leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It is not pleasant, and we do not want it to continue. When we are faced with hurt, abuse, and difficult life situations where we have been wronged by others, it is difficult not to be bitter, resentful, and angry. The problem with remaining bitter is that it hurts us, our relationships and our experiences. Left unchecked, it will seep into every area of our life.
What are the consequences of remaining bitter? Bitterness can lead to being stuck, isolation, negative attitude/mindset, and victim mentality, addictive behaviors, becoming depressed and/or anxious, unable to find joy in life, stressed and angry, health concerns, and loss of faith. We can become toxic to ourselves and everyone we are close to. Example: A former co-worker at rehab who was bitter at her ex-husband, who struggled with alcohol addiction; ended up taking out her resentments on the people she was supposed to be helping.
We can end up hurting our family and friends by our negativity and become toxic towards them. If we are unable to move forward, find joy and purpose in our lives; we will have difficulty celebrating other's success and may even start bringing them down. If this happens, it may cause people to pull away, and we become even more isolated.
When a divorce or relationship ends, it is very difficult and painful. If we do not work on healing, and remain bitter; we can end up hurting our family. Examples: A woman who was so bitter at her husband for leaving, she took it out on her 6 children. She is now a senior citizen, none of her children talk to her, and she has grandchildren she has never met. In another situation, a father was angry and bitter after he left his family and did not speak to his children for over 10 years. He made contact and died 2 years later. He missed out on his kids’ lives while they were growing up.
If we remain bitter, we will carry that into every future relationship. So what will help us leave bitterness behind? Forgiveness. Forgiveness will help us get unstuck, heal, and move on. So how do we forgive? First, it is a process that we may have to go through several times until we have peace about a situation. Future events may trigger us to ruminate on the events again, so we may have to work through this again. We begin by not dwelling (who or what is taking up residence in your head and heart) on the situation, not gossiping about or slandering the person who hurt us; we do not seek revenge or act in a passive aggressive manner. We realize that we do not need the other person to apologize or acknowledge their wrong to be able to forgive. We make up our mind that we are no longer going to carry the weight of this hurt.
What else can help? Connect with others. Think of what you like to do for fun or try a new activity or hobby. What are you passionate about? Take a class; join a group or volunteer, or travel. Journaling, prayer, meditation, and spiritual practices can also help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with bitterness, VCC has a number of experienced counselors who can help you heal and work through your bitterness.