The Trouble with Bitterness
‘Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.’ Maya Angelou
I was confronted this morning on the 08.37 Waterloo to Reading train. I had sat in an area of four seats as that was the only way to keep my suitcase out of the aisle. Yes, I was blocking the seat opposite and, while I sorted out my stuff, I put a backpack on that seat. I was, like so many other commuters, just an ordinary woman with too much to carry and a job to get to.
Then she arrived – or stormed into the seat opposite. First there was the snarling sigh as she shoved my suitcase, the spiteful comment as I moved my backpack for her to put down her handbag. The dramatic shoving as she pretended to not have room to sit.
I looked around to see if the train was full and if I would need to move. No. Empty seats everywhere.
Then the stream of spite – an onslaught of nastiness. I asked her not to be rude which was denied before another splurge of sarcasm and why didn’t I go to First class and buy three seats. I asked her not to speak to me. Another shot of venom. The guard to our right looked on and asked if I was alright.
I was. Some time ago, I would have been consumed with indignation and fury – bitter at the injustice. But why should I let another person’s spleen ruin my day and waste my time thinking of spiteful comments to make back at her when one of us left. Instead I opted for balance and called the sister of a dear friend who we know is dying – told her I loved them both and heard her smile. I felt better – angry but better.
I looked back at my fellow commuter – just a woman like me with work on her lap. But this women was a study in anger. Osmotic fury exuded her. She was balled tight, hunched over papers which she flicked as if they hated her as much as she them. Her face crunched with some dark thoughts or other while the mouth, which once must have smiled, made a bitter crease across her face.
The impact of bitterness has long been seen as negative to human beings. Professor Wosch, 2011, actually stated that prolonged negativity leads to physical harm to the body. It certainly leads to unhappiness, poor relationships, depression and anxiety. The more bitter you are the more others step away. Bitterness is the fast-track to loneliness.
The mayo clinic states forgiveness as essential to reclaiming happiness. But before you forgive, you need to understand why you keep yourself in such a state of hate. Who knows what had happened in the life of the woman on the train. Maybe she had an tough childhood; maybe she was losing a loved one too; maybe her kids are gone and her life is empty; maybe she has been disappointed; maybe she has never reached her aspirations; maybe making others uncomfortable makes her feel better. Whatever it was – something propelled her to seek out and verbally, personally attack another woman.
Whatever it was, the only feeling I could raise as she tugged on her hat and stamped away from me was overwhelming pity.
So if you are like the woman on the train, maybe you need to step back and think.
If you are angry, then what can you do to assert yourself?
If you have been disappointed then why are you letting someone else’s cruelty make you so cruel to yourself?
If you are lonely, what can you do to stop pushing people away?
If you are sad, who can you talk to and vent that negativity?
If you are just mean, are you really willing to continue down a track of no respect from others?
What do you need to let go?
Who or what do you need to forgive and put in a box labelled ‘the past’?
Remember – it is your life and your choice.