I spent time with a bitter person yesterday. She complained about everything and everyone. She has a remarkable amount to be grateful for in life, yet she could only say, “I grew up with nothing and I still have nothing.”
She has a home, car, food, health insurance, and money to buy anything within reason that she needs. I would say that she is richer than a significant portion of the world.
But she is still unhappy.
As we talked, she criticized various people that we both know. In her eyes, all of them had slighted her and it was clear she hadn’t moved on. She called them all “low-class people”. She had an insult for everyone on her list.
I finally asked her, “Do you ever forgive anyone?”
She replied, “No, not really. I can never let it go.”
It saddened me to hear this because it was my mother who spoke these words.
“Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor. When we forgive the person who harmed us, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves. Forgiveness, in other words, is the best form of self-interest. This is true both spiritually and scientifically.” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I don’t know anyone who has lived a pain-free life.
What will you do with your pain? Will you cling to it, justifying your “right” to be angry? Or will you release it and move forward, seeking a life of joy?
We can choose how to respond. We can forgive. Not for them. For us.
I have walked the path of bitterness. I didn’t hurt anyone but myself. The ones who had hurt me didn’t care. They had moved on.
Forgiveness does not mean excusing unacceptable behavior. It does not mean accepting abuse. Forgiveness means caring enough about yourself to cut the cords of enmeshment and become an independent person.
Sometimes the person we most need to forgive—is ourselves. We hold on to regrets, stuck in the past. “If only” becomes our rallying cry.
I’ve been down that road too. Again, I only punished myself. I wasted more time living in regret.
Can I say something kindly?
Stop torturing yourself. You did the best you could. Even if you didn’t, now that you know better, you will do better. You are not a failure—you are human. Give yourself some grace.
“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain. You simply have to hurt.” — Brené Brown
Grieving is hard. But to get past the pain, we must face and experience it. When we reach the end of our anger, we have a choice—hurt and heal, or hurt and forever live in anger.
We only have a finite amount of time on this earth. I don’t want to spend that time living in anger. I choose forgiveness. I choose to walk out of the past and into freedom.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.