Bitterness is sticky. I can’t shake it off. I can’t rub it off on my pants. I can’t even wash my hands of it – trying to just increases how it clings. And I find that if I don’t do anything about it, just try to ignore it, it grows and changes. What was a gooey, viscous substance expands around my feelings and hardens them. Even though I don’t understand it, I know this is what it does. I’ve felt it. I’ve lived it.
Where I’m usually lighthearted and kind, I notice that I’m sarcastic and snide. And I don’t like it. I don’t want to perfect my evil laugh. I don’t enjoy thinking that everything that comes out of someone’s mouth is said in an effort to better their place in the world. I like seeing the good in the world, in the people around me, in myself. And bitterness leads me to guessing at everyone’s ulterior motives. It’s unpleasant, at best. At worst it continues the cycle because it makes me even more bitter toward the person or situation that gave me the sour taste in my mouth to begin with. So, what’s a girl to do?
What’s a woman who normally forgives readily supposed to do with that? I have to say that I thankfully haven’t dealt with bitterness often. Maybe because I so easily forgive. Maybe because the Navy moves us along to the next duty station and I am not faced with the object of my disdain on a regular basis. Whatever the reason, I can only think of a few times in my life when I’ve experienced the hardening of my normally mushy insides. I’ve noticed my caring self getting more sarcastic and picking at others. And when I recognize these behaviors in myself, whether or not they’re apparent to others doesn’t matter. I know about them. And I’ll tell you what I do.
I force bitterness to let go of me. Before it tightens around my joy. Before it creates a petrified and cold place in me that cannot be healed. I work consciously and intentionally to make me into something so smooth and satiny that bitterness can’t latch on to.
I put out love and joy and pleasantness. I brace my delicate insides with positive emotions. I don’t ignore or give in or put energy into the bitter gunk stuck to me. Through trial and error, I’ve found that it falls away if I become too slippery for it. Bitterness isn’t compatible with silky comfort created by being kind, thoughtful, and forgiving.
And that’s who I try to be.
I know, this sounds fab, right? But you might be thinking, “When you’re dealing with someone who’s weaselly and charismatic, how do you keep your wits about you? How do you not sink to their level? How?”
I meditate. I start my day with thoughts about who I want to be for the day. I push out any negative story lines and repeat tender, supportive mantras. Sometimes it’s simply the words “be kind” over and over. But I start my day with this focused goal. That helps.
I appreciate. I accept compliments from others – and say an honest, “Thank you.” I notice little things throughout the day that bring a smile to my face. Maybe just a simple ray of sunshine, maybe a hug from the kids, maybe a meme on social media – it all works. And at the end of the day, I am thankful for my blessings.
I don’t vent to everyone. There’s a very fine line between sharing a frustrating situation with a confidant and gossiping with everyone about how awful someone is. In fact crossing that line is usually one of my first indicators that I’m feeling bitter. I surely don’t want others to be hurt or wronged the same way I was, but making myself the billboard declaring how terrible someone is says more about me than her (or him). I do find it helpful to confide in my husband and maybe one friend, but then if I’m tempted to tell everyone else and write a song about it – well, it’s time to send that negativity off into the universe and replace it with meditation and appreciation.
In doing this, I do find that I can find my place again. I can find my smile. My life can resume a more pleasant and satisfying normalcy. I can move past bitterness.
So, now you’re saying, “Okay, great. But what about that other person? What if you have to see them, work with them? How do you not get irritated every time they’re around?” Quite simply, it’s not my problem. The only person I can control and change is me. I do find, though, that once I’m not bitter anymore, they don’t impact me as much. I can be respectful (because, again, that says more about me than them). I also find that I feel badly for them. I start to view them as struggling to maintain their status quo and think about how exhausting that must be for them. And I send up prayers of this nature for them.
If anything is going to cause a person who belittles or uses or puts down others to change, it’s going to be God, not me. It’s going to be the beautiful energy of the world pinging them again and again, not me. It’s going to be a realization that their health – physical, mental, emotional – is being impacted by the spirit of who they are, not anything I feel based on a situation we’ve gone through together. So, I don’t take responsibility for them.
And after all that…I feel content. I feel cleansed. I feel like putting more good out there. So I do.