You might find it boring, irritating, or mysterious, but “Choose to be better, not bitter,” is a meaningful maxim. It’s about making a decision that the events in your life will not serve as excuses for you to harbor, or to nurture, anger, resentment, jealousy or any negative attitudes. Let’s look how the choice to be bitter or better is made, with a few case histories and some rhetorical questions.
Lovelorn and Looking to Even the Score
Singles around the world bemoan their fate, but most of them do not punish people for it. One woman decided to punish her community and family for “not doing enough” to help her to marry. She decided not to smile at anyone ever again. “I don’t have to be happy. I am single and I don’t want to be. It’s everyone’s fault and this is what they’re going to get for not helping me to find a husband.” Hold on to that thought.
Did it make sense to punish all the people she’d meet in the future, for a problem they hadn’t caused? Was she making a convincing case to friends and family, let alone to new acquaintances, that they ought to refresh their efforts to help her to connect with potential spouses? Did she seem remotely suitable as a potential spouse able to weather difficulties and to enact solutions with her partner, or not?
Contrast the above with singles going out of their way to contribute to wider society rather than wasting time bemoaning their fates and hurting themselves and other people with antisocial behavior. US Bureau of Labor statistics show that single men and women tend to give more to their communities than do married counterparts. Singles volunteer in community organizations and sometimes launch others. They assist relatives, neighbors and co-workers and even become involved in community events and causes. They’re even more social and more generous with their money than some married people!
Peeved at Poor Parenting
Consider the person who’d experienced neglectful, inadequate parents who had made disparaging remarks, gave unjust punishments, and never provided enough affection while s/he was growing up. S/he decided to be “Just as much of a shmuck” with their future family because “That’s all I know.” Did she or he only know how to be punitive, emotionally cold and uncaring, or did s/he have an idea of how parents can meet their child’s emotional needs? Whom do people with scuttled childhoods help with adult minds closed to the possibilities of growing beyond their circumstances? What do they gain, and what do they lose, with a denial of affection and caring behavior to the people in their developing lives?
Look at the lives of people such as motivational speaker Tony Robbins, abused by his mother as a child, and actress Charlize Theron who watched her mom kill her abusive father. They go past their poor starts in life and figure out how to thrive. They are aware of what’s missing and what’s necessary. They decide to go past the pain, the poverty, and the misery, to behave with decency. They channel their energy into positive actions, sort out their thoughts in order to think in balanced ways, and place a positive point of view as their priority. The lives of other people are thus affected in positive ways, too.
Loss of Life and Sense of the Future
What about people who’ve lost loved ones to murder and withdrew from society or their other children? What benefit did they have from denying themselves and others of caring attention and by focusing on loss? By refusing to face their “new normal” with a sense of protecting the rest of their future, or improving anyone else’s life, they remain trapped in the moment of shock and despair.
Count the numbers of organizations launched by bereaved people so that they could help others past the same problems. The HARM – Honour Abuse Research Matrix Network, the Koby Mandell Foundation, and the The Loss Foundation are among numerous charitable efforts created by people in intense emotional pain, in order to help people they might never meet past theirs. Consider the healing that such effort entails.
When you want to get better, not to remain bitter, think of the wisdom in not punishing people who had nothing to do with the pain you experienced. There’s wisdom in not punishing perpetrators, too. Rise above the emotional traps to behave with dignity, compassion, and clear-headed thinking. If you need help with that, open a dialogue with a trusted mental health professional that can help you to reach those goals.