Bitterness: The Subtle Killer
Some years ago I read about a vine in South American called the "matador". According to what I read, the matador starts at the foot of a tree and slowly works its way up, sapping the life of the tree as it grows. When it reaches the top the tree is dead, and to crown itself it produces a single flower.
The word matador in Spanish means "killer". Bitterness, just like the matador vine, can seem harmless at first. But it isn't long before its tendrils of resentment, malice, and hatred grab hold of the heart and eventually destroy ones health and kill the inner being.
I recently came across another analogy I like related to bitterness that compares past hurts to bricks. For bricks to do what they were made for, they have to be transported to a site and unloaded. Likewise, painful experiences can only fulfill their purpose when they are let go of at the right place and at the right time. However, if held onto too long, the pain will turn into bitterness from the response to the weight of the anger.
Letting go of anger is usually not a problem for me, but not always. The most recent example happened when my health broke down. My initial reaction was a mixture of anger and frustration: anger at having my life turned upside down, and frustration at not being able to do all that I could do before I became ill.
It took me quite a while to let go of the pain, but the turning point came when it finally dawned on me that getting back my old life was beyond my control. I just needed to start living in the present and accept that my life would have to change according to my present circumstances. When I accepted that, it allowed me to begin to look for ways that I could benefit from the changes that I could see were ahead. Once I began to see the possible benefits, I then had the desire to make the difficult choices to do what was necessary to make them a reality.
That started me on a journey of new learning experiences. For example, writing is something I never had much of an interest in before. However, after doing it for some time, not only do I find occasions when I enjoy it, but now I see that through it I can reach out and be a help to others on a much greater scale. I'm also learning a lot about nutrition and diet. Another area I'm learning more about is being honest with myself. And there are other areas that I'm growing in, as well, that I probably wouldn't have otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's easy to go through painful experiences. But what I am saying is I've found there are ways to benefit from those experiences. The famous Italian tenor Enrico Caruso once said, "To be great it's necessary to suffer." Accepting this, that suffering is a necessary part of growth and maturity, has been key in opening myself up to the possibility of finding the hidden benefits in such experiences.
It's when I let go of my anger and set myself on a positive course that the treasures within the pain start to appear: treasures of empathy, compassion, patience, and understanding, to name a few. Having been there myself, I can relate much better to others who are going through similar difficulties.
In my experience pain, in the end, is what increases my capacity to love others, if I let go of the anger it brings. Whereas bitterness only ends up hurting me much more than it does, if at all, the person against whom I direct it.
So I can either take the road that leads to greater love, or go down the road that slowly eats away my physical and mental state. To me, the choice is clear. I'll choose the road to being more loving over bitterness any day.