This is hard. No one’s saying it’s easy. But in order to choose happiness, we need to rally against those things that, according to the dictionary definition of bitter make us “angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment.”
So how do we do this? I personally can say that I have been more disappointed, hurt, and angry as a result of other people’s actions more than I have been satisfied or contented with them, especially when I have needed something important. So you would think that I would have become inured to this, and honestly, I wish I could tell you that I am. But there’s a part of me that still wants to see the best in other people and trust that when someone says they will help me out that they will actually come through with what they promised. As much as I would like to squelch that impulse of hope within me, I do not want to walk around in my life as a perpetually miserable person always expecting the worst out of every person and every situation I encounter. As much as that attitude might hurt me in the end, I still think it’s a better way to be.
But what I have learned from dealing with these situations time and again are these things:
Do not take this treatment personally. That is very difficult to do, because the hard truth is, people put their time and effort into things that are priorities for them, and when they don’t follow through with what they say they are going to do, it clearly shows that you are simply not high enough on their priority list. Or even on it at all. Man that can hurt, especially when you have done your part to be a good friend or relative to this person, even going out of your way to help them when they needed it. Been. There. More times than I can count. But you have to remember that their choice to not reciprocate has less to do with you than it does to do with them. While I personally can never understand how someone can feel perfectly fine going back on a promise, many people have no problem doing that at all, which shows us something about the nature of their character and provides a opportunity for us to question whether or not we really want this person in our lives. Sometimes it’s good to get the proverbial “kick in the head” that we need to help us see a person’s value (or non-value) as it pertains to our happiness and well-being.
When you’re done being justifiably angry and frustrated and upset, pick your head up and move on. DO NOT LET THIS PERSON CLOUD YOUR JOY OR DULL YOUR SHINE FOR ONE MORE MINUTE OF YOUR LIFE! This is really important because we can get mired down in, “I can’t believe they took advantage of me again, “ or “How come nobody is ever there for me when I need them?” or “Why is is always ME who has to make the accommodations and go out of my way when no one else will do that for me?” These feelings are all real and warranted and you have 100% permission to feel them. But feel them and then let them go so you can go on with your life as happily and freely as possible. Instead of simmering in those feelings, get out of yourself and focus on better things. One thing that always works for me is getting outside. Physically breathing in fresh air, looking up at the sky, and getting myself immersed in nature reminds me that there is a bigger world out there outside of my disappointments. It also may help to make a list of all of the people in your life that you CAN count on, instead of focusing all of your energies on the people whom you can’t. Even if the list is short, it’s a good reminder that this person is not the entire be all and end all of your world, you DO have people who support you and love you and do put you on their priority list.
Another thing that you can do, which may seem petty and unnecessary, but what I have found to be cathartic and healing, is to get rid of things that remind you of this person. I’m not saying to put everything out on your lawn and light it on fire a la Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale (although I do love that scene), but when you do something tangible that represents finally getting this person out of your life, it can be very helpful. Years ago when a very good friend betrayed me (several times) I was, understandably, completely devastated and emotionally gutted. I spent the following days and months feeling like I was gasping for air and like my very foundation had crumbled beneath me. When I finally was able to see the situation for what it was, without so much emotional baggage attached to it, I knew that what would ultimately help me get over this was taking some kind of palpable action. So I gathered up all of the gifts and letters and recipes and things that had been given to me over the years and got rid of all of them. I deleted the hundreds of emails that we had shared and actually got a new email account so there would be no chance of ever having any more. These kinds of actions, are just that - ACTIONS - we can take, to reassert our power over our lives and to consciously and deliberately reaffirm ourselves of our own strength, worth, and authority.
Bitterness can be a safe and comfortable hole to hide in while we’re nursing hurt feelings. But please don’t stay down in there for too long. You have too much good to offer this world, just as you are, to let someone else’s words or actions control how you’re going to spend your day. I cannot impress upon you enough how important it is to fight the bitterness and MAKE ANOTHER CHOICE, as often as you can. Choose freedom, choose joy, and choose peace, which can only be found in light instead of in darkness. In the beautiful words of Nelson Mandela:
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”