Yet it is human nature to experience times of bitterness, whether our negative emotion is directed inward or outward. Forgiving someone or something does not magically remove the hurt. Trying to forget something we’d rather not remember does not happen overnight.
The experience of reading dictionary definitions of “bitter” –at least for me—produces the same effect as sucking on a sour lemon. Regarding a “bitter taste” dictionaries use words like, “Harsh, or disagreeably acrid.” Regarding emotions or sensations that are bitter, descriptions include, “painful, scornful, fierce, distressful, piercing, intense antagonism, hostility, resentful, cynical.”
Have you been there? Are you there now? The bitterness we carry can literally eat away at us like acid, destroying joy, hope, trust, and even relationships with others, as well as life opportunities like jobs, living situations, educational degrees, etc.
What is the source of bitterness? There may be many theories…perhaps you have some of your own ideas. Personally, I think the root of bitterness lies in unmet expectations that we have for ourselves or others. Since each of us has our own “CONTEXT,” or starting point, with unique experiences, personalities, emotions, knowledge, fears, and dreams, our expectations are likely to be different from those of the people around us. And since most expectations are simply assumed or projected onto others without being verbally identified, it is not surprising that every day some expectations, big and small, will go unmet.
Not everything will go as we expect. People will let us down. Accidents will happen. We are not perfect, our circumstances will not be perfect, and the people with whom we live, work, and play will not be perfect. We have a choice. Will we allow these to make us bitter? Or will we choose to let them make us better?
In choosing to be “better” and not “bitter,” we can extend grace, forgiveness, and a “new way of remembering” to ourselves and to the people and circumstances that fail to meet our expectations. We can learn from our mistakes. We can be thankful for the events and people who shape us, correct us, and help us grow, whether or not we would have chosen them. Choosing to allow people and circumstances to make us better rather than bitter is not a one-time event. Instead, it often takes daily choices, remembered and reinforced time and time again.
Savor this for a moment…Dictionary definitions of “better” use words such as, “superior quality, more virtuous, larger, greater, improved, completely recovered in health, more appropriate, acceptable, surpass, and exceed.” It strikes me that “better” is a way of exceeding expectations…even when things don’t turn out as planned.
What is the difference between “bitter” and “better?” I think it might be all about taking the “I” out of bitter, and replacing it with the “e” for “eye…” choosing to see or remember things in a different way, forgiving myself, realizing it may not be all about me, or removing myself from the center of the equation, whether to protect myself from future hurt, or to keep from being a part of the on-going problem.
Which do you choose? Bitter…or better?