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Better, Not Bitter

February 27, 2014

Alice Herz-Sommer said, “Hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated.” Hmm…hatred eats the soul of the hater...that’s powerful. Friends, our soul is our breath of life; our connection to our higher power. Allowing bitterness to devour our soul is like a plague that consumes our bliss. Meanwhile, the one we hate (for the ‘wrong’ they did) has gone on with their life not giving a second thought to the misery they left behind.

Inevitably, life is such that we will cross paths with a petulant boss, a back-stabbing friend, a cheating other half, or countless number of other circumstances involving someone whose caused us unhappiness and feelings of betrayal. Should we be bitter? Before you respond consider these options. Simply vent (short term) to get it out of your system. Then calmly seek them out and tell them how they made you feel. Or, if you can’t face them, write everything down and read it out loud (to yourself, or a trusted friend). Doing any of these will allow you to feel the negative emotion then release it (let go). Think of it as detaching from the emotional aspect of the situation. It doesn’t mean you’re condoning their actions. Nor does it make what they did ‘okay.’ It simply means you’re letting go of the hurt and freeing yourself from a prison of painful emotions. Psychologists call this self-regulation, which is the process of disengaging from something that makes you feel bad (negative) and reengaging with something that makes you feel good (positive). Think of it like having a good gripe then treating yourself to something you enjoy.

Besides the fact that embitterment will never right a wrong, remaining in a state of bitterness can be detrimental to your health. You could say bitterness has been ‘under the microscope’ since medical research has cited evidence that a continuous state of bitterness could cause dangerous, even life threatening health problems affecting our immune system, metabolism and vital organs. Not to mention depression and anxiety playing a major role in our mental health. Remain bitter? No, strive to be better.

By the way, at 110, was the oldest known survivor of the Holocaust. Passing away this past Sunday, her optimistic attitude is the legacy she leaves behind. She is quoted as saying, “I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.”

A powerful and positive mindset from a woman who endured circumstances the rest of us could never imagine; conditions a far cry from an ill-tempered boss or cheating lover. Not negating the effects of being hurt by lies or a caustic attitude since I carried the pain of unpleasant experiences like a festering wound with me for years, I understand too well the ill effects bitterness can cause. Gratefully, I finally learned to walk away and let it go. How? First, I’d like to share a pastor’s Sunday message with you on this topic. Upon Googling ‘bitterness + disease’ the pastor was amazed to uncover an article by CNN on serious health conditions caused by living in a constant state of bitterness.

He even mentioned Alice Herz-Sommer and studies done on survivors of the Holocaust, stating the people who forgave their captors had moved on to live enjoyable lives; meanwhile, those who had harbored hatred and bitterness didn’t (live as long or as happily). What a powerful wake-up call about holding on to past hurts. The pastor went on to speak about the powerful healing effects of forgiving our transgressors, which is complemented by this quote I came across in my own research by leading psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch: “In order to deal with bitter emotions there may need to be something else required to enable a person to overcome the negative emotion — that something is forgiveness.”

Forgiveness: the greatest lesson you’ll learn and apply in your lifetime. Because when you truly forgive it relights the candle burning in your soul. Otherwise, you’ll spend life stumbling around in the dark despair of anger, hatred and bitterness. Remember Alice’s wisdom, hatred eats at our soul…not theirs. Let go. Move on. Live better, not bitter.

Can you imagine… how much better life can be?

Smile, you are amazing!



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