By Tianna Burdoin
I’m gonna be real for a minute. I’m a bitter person. I harvest my anger and resentment until I’m yelling to my windshield in traffic about that one thing that happened five years ago because, why can’t people drive faster?!
Bitterness by definition is a feeling of deep anger and resentment. It is an emotion that encompasses hate, disappointment and holding a grudge. Now that’s a whole lot of negativity in one sentence. Bitterness in my life has gone hand-in-hand with denial. I denied bitterness had anything to do with me and everything to do with those who treated me unfairly. It wasn’t my fault certain things caused me so much grief, it was everything else that happened to me! I felt as though harboring these feelings of bitterness gave me a sense of reality that I was right, and they were wrong. The reality is that I had let myself become an emotional victim to what happened to me and who made it happen to me.cI was living in my very own pity party that nobody else cared to join, and that made me even more bitter!
Maybe you’re bitter because you’re 30 and not married when all of your friends have beautiful children and a home you swear you just pinned on Pinterest. Maybe you’re bitter because you worked 10x harder for a promotion that was given to someone else. Maybe you’re bitter because your father should have been more of a father. Maybe you’re bitter because fairness doesn’t run in your family. I understand that bitterness is sometimes a natural reaction to an unexpected event.
Life doesn’t always treat us fairly and it’s okay and perfectly normal to respond with an emotional reaction! Cry, scream into a pillow, write, eat a whole bag of chips and queso. But nobody will ever say to harbor those emotions and let them resurface every time the plot twists or you get treated unfairly. Even someone who has done that, and still struggles with that, knows how crazy that sounds! Those feelings need to be expressed, processed, and then left in the past. We can all agree that moving forward is hard when you don’t receive closure. It’s hard to move forward when you constantly see that person at work who took your promotion or when you see your ex and his new life all over social media, or when things from your childhood creep into your adult relationships and you take it out on the person you love. It’s hard moving forward when you are waiting for an apology that you know you will never get. But, moving forward is possible. Hard- yes, but not impossible.
I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older I pick and choose my battles a little bit better. There are just some things that are not worth your time. I’ve learned that just because someone apologizes, it doesn’t always make the hurt and bitterness disappear. How many times have you expressed your hurt with someone and asked, “Can you just apologize?” and they do, but not the way you needed to hear it to make you feel better? It wasn’t sincere enough, it felt forced, it came too late, etc… . When really, it wasn’t the apology that you needed at all. Because you got it, and still feel bitter. It was having the other person, for a one second, feel the way that you feel.
I’ve learned that people just do not want to be around bitter people. Simple. I’ve also learned that sometimes, that person is me. I am her, she is me. I’m sure we all have encountered that one person, (or many) who never have one good thing to say. Like you can just hear that sideeye in their voice. Maybe it’s your parents, and that has now become your own self talk. Maybe it’s a friend, your manager, or even a stranger on Facebook, maybe it’s you. I have learned that I feel everything very deeply. I cry when I feel sad, frustrated, and happy. I also feel anger very deeply. I once told a guy I developed feelings for that “I am sorry, I am not void of emotions.” And I realized that I didn’t understand why I was saying sorry.
I have learned that it is okay to feel angry and bitter. But you cannot let it out run all of the good, pure, joy that comes with simply accepting this idea that life is not fair sometimes, and really the only thing I know that I have complete control over, is my own thoughts. I can choose to fill my mind with all of the things that have happened to me. Or I can choose to fill my mind with all of the things that have happened for me, in my favor, by a loving, gracious, God.
During one of my many, many nurse residency orientation classes, our CEO came to speak with us. One of the first things he said, very casually, was about joy versus happiness. It wasn’t something I ever thought about before but it has stuck with me. He said happiness is fleeting. Happiness tends to be achieved through external factors– people, places, moments, something someone said or did – actions. Whereas joy is cultivated internally, through making peace with yourself, your situation and who you are. Joy does not come from outside sources. You may feel unhappy, because when things don’t go our way, we are usually not the happiest. But you can still feel joy in those moments.
So, even through the bitterness that you may feel, know that you are still allowed to feel and find joy in those moments. You don’t need an apology to move forward. You don’t need to voice every complaint to feel validated– your feelings are valid all on their own. You don’t need to apologize for feeling too deeply. Feeling deeply is good. It’s feeling too deep, for too long that will keep you stuck in bitterness. You are not stuck. You deserve joy. Go and create it.
About the Author
I am a mid twenties Texas girl and a new nurse resident! It is both overwhelming and exciting but a blessing above all! It’s taken me quite some time to get to where I am but that has made it all the more rewarding. Like so many other young adults I struggled with finding my purpose (and still do) I changed my major and my mind several times before realizing I should turn my passion for people into a career. Nursing challenges my mental, emotional, spiritual (and physical strength.) I’ve always liked to think of myself as a pretty strong person, but some things just have a way of bringing weakness to the surface. It’s so important to find things that bring you back to homeostasis. Finding balance is a struggle and a lifelong journey. Some seasons are easier, happier and calmer than others. I could go on, BUT writing has always been an outlet for me and helps keep my tilted axis a little bit straighter. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and submit something that I have been working on for longer than I’d like to admit! Hope you enjoy it!