Getting Over Bitterness
It’s a problem many of us face, especially in this trying economy—anger at the way we see our lives, and the lives of those close to us, changing. Especially as jobs are outsourced, companies shrink or fold, and the old structures we depended upon for support fade away, we’re called to change quickly and let go of our old ideas about what success means.
We might be wrapped up in bitterness at incidents in the past—let’s say at the bosses who fired you even though you worked as hard as you could, or the ones who didn’t hire us, or the business partner you trusted who stole your idea for a company and ran off with it, cashing in on your hard work and good faith while you’re left out in the cold. Maybe you’re angry at the spouse or partner who dragged you down with their neediness and inability to take care of themselves while you floundered.
These are common stories in our current economic climate. When the going gets tough, the sad truth is that people’s true faces come out, as they turn from genial, generous friends to people who will stab you in the back in a second to keep themselves afloat. We don’t like to admit how closely our “morality” is tied to money—but it is. “Food is the first thing,” the composer Kurt Weill wrote, during the heart of the brutal pre-WWII depression in Germany. “Morals follow on.”
When the economy crashed in 2008, much of the country found themselves being pushed, hard, and having to come up with strategies and plans they never thought they would have just in order to survive. That’s life for you—it pulls people apart and recombines them in completely unexpected orderings. You may have had things ripped away from you and then new things given to you that you could never have foreseen.
If you’re bitter about the past, what’s the best way to deal with it?
Standard New Age thinking would suggest that we simply forgive and forget, let go, and move on. We might even come to think that we had somehow “deserved” whatever happened to us in a broader, karmic sense, and that the bad things that happen to us are somehow good, purifying us of previous transgressions.
But what if none of that’s true? What if, in fact, the appropriate response IS to get angry, get mad and fight back?
Maybe we shouldn’t directly fight back against the people who screwed us over, but we CAN use that anger to fight back by pushing forward with our own lives, refusing to feel sorry for ourselves or guilty, refusing to abuse or punish ourselves with drugs, alcohol or other self-destructive behaviors. We can fight forward, instead of against the people trying to hold us back. Another saying, one I’ve always appreciated: “Living well is the best revenge.”
In my mind, I’ve found that New Age thinking—i.e., “it happened for a reason”—can easily lead you to a very ineffective place. Not all surrender is good. However, channeling the hurt of the past into constructive action, and letting it help you push yourself to work harder and smarter instead of getting sucked under—as well as being able and willing to roll with the punches and re-invent yourself—now THAT is a recipe for success!
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