The Quagmire Of Bitterness

Forgiveness alone enables you to let go of grievances, grudges, rancor, and resentment. It’s the single most potent antidote for the venomous desire for retributive justice poisoning your system.

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The word bitter comes from ancient Greek, meaning “sharp or pointed.” Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a bitter person with a predisposition for ‘sharp-tongued’ remarks knows that words—especially carefully crafted by a wordsmith’s hateful, scornful mouth—can often cut quite deeply.

How to know someone who is bitter? They desire to make someone else suffer; they are full of vindictiveness; they wallow in self-pity; they are always looking for a fight; they have sociopathic pride and they are narcissistic.

So, someone was recently trending, thanks to Google algorithm, for being the most bitter woman in Nigeria. She who must not be named. It is sad for her PR, but hey, it’s also usable for good; because it looks like people are vilifying her, more people pity her. As much as I don’t find her likable or attractive, I am sure she is not as bitter as some, I’m sure we all agree on this. A lot of Nigerians are just, bitter. And on that Big Brother show, she did well to enunciate this cultural problem we have. Very visible in the number of votes she acquired.

They are in your homes. The landlord who rents out a place but proceeds to frustrate your life. The neighbor who does senseless things for no reason just to make everyone uncomfortable, the one who sits on the veranda and makes snide comments on every passing human.

They are in your offices. The sole proprietor who never fails to remind you she is a CEO and you’re nothing but a hungry youth she saved out of the pool of lazy Nigerians. The team-lead who never fails to remind you she’s the boss and won’t sign off on your bonus. The HR lady that won’t sign off on your promotion because you were roommates with her ex who cheated on her.

They are in our churches. They are in our lives, we may even be married to one, or in love with one. You see, everyone will always have their fans, no matter how bad they are. Being good and being loved are not synonymous. And Cee C is not the most bitter woman in Nigeria, I’ve had the privilege of working with the best of them.

A lot of females in Nigeria are labeled as bitter. While this is not founded or backed by research, I will make a case for this. I recently saw a tweet about how African women are flowers that bloom regardless of being watered. Well, not all flowers that grow in desert environments are as attractive as those that don’t, but, beautiful, regardless. For beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nigerians generally do not grow in enabling environments, from being molested at young ages, to other forms of sexual abuse, child abuse and child labor, growing up learning to crush the next person to succeed, grown up angry still with the bad economics of the country, the politics, the police, just name it. It is a bitterness enabling environment! So I hope we all take a cue from Cee C and seek the help we need to let go of this ball in our chests.

Bitterness settles in when someone focuses on anger over an emotional “violation” that has happened to them in the past. When you are bitter, you believe that someone else has the problem. Not you. So how can you even convince a bitter person that something might be wrong with the way they are thinking?

All bitterness starts out as hurt. And your emotional pain may translate to viewing whoever provoked this hurt as committing a grave injustice toward you and causing you grief. Anger—and its first cousin, resentment—is what we’re all likely to experience whenever we conclude that another has seriously abused us. Left to fester, that righteous anger eventually becomes the corrosive ulcer that is bitterness.

Being at this level of hurt can:

Prolong your mental and emotional pain;

Lead to long-lasting anxiety and/or depression;

Precipitate vengeful (or even violent) acts that put you at further risk of being hurt or victimized—and possibly engulf you in a never-ending, self-defeating cycle of “getting even”;

Create, or further deepen, an attitude of distrust and cynicism—qualities that contribute to hostility and paranoid thinking, as well as an overall sense of pessimism, futility, and unhappiness. Moreover, such a bleak, negative perspective prompts others to turn away from you;

Undermine your physical health (by engendering such problems as insomnia, high blood pressure, back pain, headaches, or abdominal conditions). For the chronic anger that is bitterness can raise your stress baseline, thereby taxing (or “overloading”) your immune system;

by keeping you in a paradoxical state of “vengeful bondage”.

So the real question is: Do you really want to see yourself as a “victim,” with all the implications of helplessness embedded in that defeatist label? Consider that if you obsessively ruminate on the righteousness of your anger, your wrath will only become further inflamed.

The simplest plan for implementing the intention of regaining your emotional equilibrium is this paraphrase from James J. Messina:

(1) Identify the source of your bitterness and what this person did to evoke your resentful feelings;

(2) Develop a new way of looking at your past, present, and future—including how resentment has negatively affected your life and how letting go of it can improve your future;

(3) write a letter to this person, describing [their] offenses toward you, then forgive and let go of them (but don’t send the letter) [Note, by the way, that choosing to renew your tie to the individual who seriously offended you is totally separate from your choice to forgive them.];

(4) visualize your having a better future having neutralized the negative impact of resentment; and

(5) if bitter, resentful feelings remain, return to Step 1 and begin again.

Forgiveness alone enables you to let go of grievances, grudges, rancor, and resentment. It’s the single most potent antidote for the venomous desire for retributive justice poisoning your system. I remember my first freedom from this hold. It was my first service at House on The Rock, Enugu. It was my NYSC year and I was carrying a lot of anger from the past. But the title of the message was “Let go”. And the way it was rendered, had me in tears 30 minutes into the service. And that day, the burden was lifted off me, and I started my journey towards healing, the hard journey. If the bitterness won’t let go even after you’ve tried your best, it is time to seek professional help. Just visit Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, they can refer you appropriately.

“It is hardly possible to build anything if frustration, bitterness, and a mood of helplessness prevail.” (Lech Walesa)

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