Breaking Free from Bitterness

Last week, as we all paused to think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the light that he shed upon this world, I scrolled through quotes and held onto his words of hope, loss and triumph. I thought about how the last few years have opened many peoples eyes to just how much hate and bitterness is surrounding us. It made me pause to think about the difference between being angry and that of living our days in bitterness. I thought about how angry I am for so many reasons, and in that same breath I reflected over and over on how I refuse to become bitter. I lamented over how social media seems to be adding to the pervasive bitterness that seems to cover much of America and I felt the need to write out my thoughts on this subject. 

As I have spent time reflecting, looking deep within my heart to check for that lion of bitterness, I have realized that while bitterness attempts to slowly creep into humans souls, we can release this grasp once we acknowledge it is there, waiting to squeeze the joy out of our hearts.

Our souls have a reason to be on this earth, we are meant to find that reason and to foster our progression forward. Bitterness stops us from reaching our potential and moving forward. It poisons our minds, forcing us to sit alone with ourselves and feel lonely, alienated and fiercely protective of this demon of hatred that is fostering. As I examined the idea of bitterness, and took time to recognize what bitterness I have allowed to creep into my own body, I realized that bitterness seems to be desperate for solace. Holding tightly to feelings of hatred, animosity, antagonism, and hostility slowly bring us to our knees. Through an act of conscious meditation and deliberately searching for my personal truth, I was able to realize that while anger is needed, bitterness is the cold demon that waits in the shadows and we must not let it take us down. 

This short time on earth can be spent doing and feeling many things. Feeling angry for the things that are wrong, and letting that anger drive us to make progress forward is absolutely part of our purpose. Anger helps us to fight for  love, peace and equality. Anger helps us to inspire the necessary changes needed to make this world a place that our children will want to live. 

And still, it is in this anger that we run the risk of losing ourselves to the darkness of bitterness. 

I think about the changes that MLK Jr made during his short time on this earth. The passion, anger and commitment that he had towards fighting the dark and evil forces of our humanity.  These changes were done with love, not hate. These changes were done with passion, not malice. These changes were done with anger, not shriveled up bitterness. These changes were made with sweat, tears, truth and most importantly through the lens of love. Hate, bigotry, racism, fascism, narcissism and all around ugliness were left out. This is what I strive for. This is who I want to be in a world where I get to choose what words I share, what actions I take and what light I want to shed in my very short time on this earth.

 “Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the instruments of Love” _Martin Luther King Jr. 

Many of us are angry, and rightly so, for the injustices we see daily. Anger allows us to become acutely aware of injustice and is what fuels our voices, protests and firm stances on things that are wrong in this world. Anger energize us to make the necessary changes that are needed for progress.

There are so many things that make me angry in our world. The list continues to grow but to name a few that spark anger within me right now- black lives continue to be treated as if they are not equal to white lives… STILL! It’s so systemic at this point that folks try to wave this fact off with their sentiment that since all lives matter we can’t be bothered with fighting for the equality of black lives that CLEARLY are not treated equally. I call bullshit. Anger towards this ignorance is not only warranted but desperately needed. MLK Jr’s hope and dream that African Americans would finally receive the equality they deserve, has yet to come to full fruition. Additionally, it’s not just those with black skin that continue to suffer; it is anyone with brown skin or that speak a different language or that have different religious beliefs, or… the list goes on and on. Growing up in a very small, rural, predominately white, logger town I know first hand what sentiments are ingrained in many and it is not pretty. We won’t be silent in this fight, we won’t be gaslighted. We will continue to hold all people accountable for their systemic beliefs that have haunted America for decades. 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr. 

Corrupt news sources, bat shit conspiracy theories and the overall inaccurate information that is shared with Americans to seemingly prey on benighted readers, leaves our heads spinning and thirsty for actual truth. Thirsty for facts and thirsty for science. Republicans and Democrats alike are at fault for this, and still, the amount of hate, misogynism, racism and all together faschist mentality of far right individuals is not only disgusting, but is intensely shattering a Country that was built on Democracy.  This makes me angry and completely hesitant to listen to thoughtless, irresponsible posts of “factual” information that is shared hastily through emotions in social media. In a day and age where ignorance can be spread easily in minutes, and to those that are not able and/ or willing to investigate further than a bate inspired post,  is not only a very angering reality, it is scary to think of the ignorance that can easily be swallowed by the masses and foster into bitterness. It’s heartbreaking. 

 “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”_ Martin Luther King Jr. 

Hate groups have labeled riots as protests. These riots led many to catastrophic destruction, killing and bitterness. Protests (that are deeply needed to fight for the change we wish to see) turned instead into riots used as a way to destroy, kill, and further agendas while seemingly losing sight of the goals at hand. Cities were burned, lives lost and our Country watched in horror as gallows were lifted at our states Capitol. It’s disheartening at best and disgusting and worst. We have a long way to go and this makes me angry.

We have watched while those that are meant to be our leaders speak with vulgarities that hurt and further divide humanity… this one I continually struggle with. People being willing to not only look the other way when their leader is blatantly biased, vulgar and hurtful to humans, but also defend and put him on a pedestal, just because it may help them financially or further their agenda in their Political party, is something I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around.

I’ve tried. Over and over I have tried to understand but it makes no sense to me.

I acknowledge that I say this from the lens that I am desperate for a figure to look up to. I think part of aging is realizing that there is so much knowledge out there that is yet to be learned. I am thirsty for said knowledge and someone respectful, brilliant and passionate to teach me. I struggle to speak on this subject without including that what also makes me angry is that many of those that have followed this hate inducing leader are those that preach Jesus’s words.

It is mind blowing.

I grew up being taught about a man named Jesus that led with love. A man that got angry and fought for changes to ugliness. A man that fought blood, sweat and tears in hopes of spreading the word of love. A man that taught me right from wrong, to see no color and to share no hatred for others… all while staying strong and leading his people firmly and with authority. While I do not need my leader of the United States to be Jesus like, I sure as hell am not allowing a man that is so blatantly hateful to influence me into bitterness and lead me in any way. It’s disgusting and terrifying.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Martin Luther King Jr.

The list, of course, does not stop here. There are pages and pages that we could write that bleed tears and invoke anger. Our disregard for the planet that is suffering due to climate change and what we do daily to contribute is heartbreaking and makes me feel rage. Children being sold and used for sex makes me crazy with anger. Families being separated, turned away and shamed when they try to run away from poverty, when every ounce of them is desperate for a life where they can eat and find joy, is excruciating. Seeing with my own eyes families sleeping on the floor or in bug covered mattresses while corporations prosper and the rich get richer is infuriating. All of this makes me angry and desperate for change.

But, still, what I reflect on today is that while there are many things to be angry about in our world, we will not be able to make the changes necessary if we are filled with bitterness. Period. Bitterness towards those that do not believe the same as you or bitterness towards the world for having continual obstacles, is, in my opinion, giving up. We must stay angry and we must continue to fight. We must fight for love and not let the fire of anger turn us bitter and unwilling to step out of our comfort zone to LISTEN to other people. We must, listen, GROW and protest for what we believe int. We must shout from deep within our souls on the discrepancies we see. We must also remember to love one another. Love our families that think differently than us, love our neighbors who look differently than us, and love those that do not believe the same as us, for their views are colored by the lens of their own reality. When we are no longer able to love, find joy in family or friends and feel the beauty of the unknown at our fingertips, we just may be falling into the grasps of bitterness. It is in that moment that we all have a choice to make, which one will you make?

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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