I whisper to myself that it is not my fault, someone else inflicted me with the pain, which I now coin as anxiety. And then another person hurts me. And now the anxiety intensifies. I say that I have forgiven those that have hurt me. But I stop and ask myself if I have truly forgiven those that have caused hurt in my life. Or have I allowed the memories of the hurt to take over me? A pastor’s sermon caused me to reevaluate my life.
The pastor uttered words that I will not forget any time soon, “Bitterness generates when something happens that you don’t think you deserve.” This caused me to wonder if I am a bitter person, and if the anxiety I feel is a side effect of the bitterness. This has truly been a tough metaphorical pill to swallow personally. Although I am opened to admitting my faults, I never thought myself to be bitter.
But I now know that if I want to continue to be honest with myself and others of who I really I am, I had to examine this piece of my life. When I thought of the people that truly inflicted hurt, those whose actions I allowed to distract me and make me stumble, I felt anger toward each one of them. And furthermore I was allowing myself to search for their harmful behaviors in those who were presently in my life. Those who had done me no harm. I became a person that did not trust and was waiting for the hurt to happen again.
Many would say that it was the trauma that I endured that is causing these behaviors that I am exhibiting. There is some truth to that, but again, to chalk it up as trauma, and not further examine it is irresponsible and does not allow for change.
Although I struggle with anxiety, I am forced to face the reality that a big part of the anxiety most likely is a side effect of the bitterness that I have held onto from those in the past. As the pastor was coming to the end of his sermon, he asked anyone if he or she was willing to let go of the bitterness and be at peace instead. I shakily raised my hand. As I lifted my hand, I felt the weight of the bitterness I carried for so long fall off of my shoulders.
I now understand that bitterness could truly alter who you truly are meant to be and turn you into a perpetual victim, which is convenient because it allows one to blame others and one never has to take responsibility for his or her actions.
I am a behavioral health therapist and I work with people on a regular basis who have endured trauma. I have dealt with trauma both personally and professionally. We have all endured some type of trauma in some form or another. But there is a point where we must decide it we are going to allow what happened to us to define who we are. Are we going to remain a victim of our circumstances or are we going to strive to do better for ourselves?
Again, I do understand trauma. I understand how it feels to be hurt in multiple ways. In my life, I admit to using my past experiences as a reason for my behaviors. And, honestly, when the trauma is fresh, we are going to behave in ways that are out of who we are. But continuing to use trauma as justification to not move forward creates bitterness. And bitterness slowly begins to take over. You begin to see the wrong in everyone else, but yourself… and that is a lonely place to be in.
We have all been hurt. None of us are immune from hurt. I challenge you to use the hurt for good.