How to get from Bitterness to Happiness with Forgiveness

By Julian Burke in Happiness on June 30th, 2009 / 4 Comments

It is a situation that we have all faced. We’ve all been hurt by someone and allowed that hurt to fester into anger and bitterness. Ironically enough anger, viewed by many as a defense mechanism, only increases our own pain. Only when we allow ourselves to forgive do we move beyond the feelings of bitterness and back to our natural, intended state of happiness.

Anger can be debilitating. Not in the moment – we all get angry sometimes. But when we hold onto our anger, it turns to bitterness and poisons our thoughts, relationships, and our lives. By refusing to let go of a hurt, we actually increase the hurt to ourselves. Bitterness has never given even a small measure of satisfaction to a wronged party.

No amount of prayer, meditation, or good thoughts will prevent us from ever getting angry. The potential to get angry is part of the human condition, as is the potential to make others angry. It is what we do with our anger that makes all the difference.

When you are wronged, you have a decision to make. You must choose between holding onto the hurt and becoming bitter or moving on by forgiving the offense. The first step in moving from bitterness to happiness through forgiveness is being conscious of the choice.

No one would deliberately choose bitterness over happiness. Yet so often, indirectly and unknowingly, that is exactly the choice that we make. The biggest obstacle to getting past the hurt is that most people do not recognize the choice in front of them. The easy thing is to wallow in our resentment, never seeing where that path leads. Even though it is obviously in our best interest to be happy, in the moment it is often far harder to choose the path that ultimately leads to happiness.

The connection does not seem altogether obvious. In fact, it seems somewhat insensible that the path to your personal happiness is through forgiving the person who, whether intentionally or unintentionally, caused your current state of misery. On the surface, it appears that would lead only to restoring the happiness of the offender, not the offendee. But in truth, your anger imprisons you and you alone in a cell of bitterness and despair. And no matter how much you want to blame the person who hurt you, no matter how much they may have been at fault, it is a cell of your own making.

Consider that your bitterness does no harm to the person who offended you. None at all. In fact, if you don’t act out toward that person, they may not even know of the bitterness that has taken root in you. It certainly won’t cause them any ill. Only the actions you take to lash out as an extension of your anger will even be felt by the offender.

All too often, those actions will also be felt, and all the more acutely, by your friends and loved ones as well, though they had no part in the offense. So not only will your anger primarily impact only yourself, the secondary effects will be on those you care about, and your enemy will be merely the tertiary recipient of your pent up wrath.

It does not have to be that way. There is another path, and you just need to recognize it to seize upon the opportunity to escape you cell of despair. If you forgive the person that hurt you, you will find yourself quickly and entirely relieved of the bitterness that grips your heart. The key is that in order for the cathartic effect to take root, you must truly forgive your offender. Mere lip service, repeating the words of forgiveness like some sort of mantra will do nothing but add an additional layer of guilt and disappointment on top of your anger and bitterness.

True forgiveness has little to do with words. Forgiveness what is known as a ‘heart attitude’. Heart attitudes are internal attitudes that radiate outward expressions. Although many people feel a sense of closure in forgiving a person face to face, it isn’t always necessary.

While offering your forgiveness to the offender is usually the ideal, you could truly forgive someone in your heart even if you never saw or spoke to that person again. In some cases the offender may be deceased, unreceptive, or simply inaccessible to you. That person’s disposition or attitude toward you does not dictate your ability to forgive. It is your heart; it is your choice.

There is no instant karma in this world. You cannot expect all ill feelings to flee your mind and an immediate sense of peace to wash over you upon forgiving someone. Though it may not happen that moment, it will come. The bitterness in your soul that stems from the hurt will go away. It will. Truly, it won’t take very long. Very soon after you stop clinging to the anger, it will stop clinging to you.
Remember that no one else can take your happiness away from you.

No matter how circumstances may buffet you, no matter what anyone else does to you; happiness, like forgiveness, is a choice. If you make a conscious decision to choose to forgive, the choice to be happy will follow easily.

Check out the remedy for bitterness: The Choice of Forgiveness Mini-Course

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4 Responses to “How to get from Bitterness to Happiness with Forgiveness”

  1. Susan Says:

    I think moving from bitterness to forgiveness is honorable but remember that forgiveness does not mean allowing those people or person back into your life. If you have to because the people are family than leave it to a minimum. My husband’s family is stuck, controlling, mean spirited, self righteous and insipidly boring. I have forgiven them for their behavior but I also keep them at arms length.

  2. The Broken Says:

    Thank you for this. There is so much anger, resentment and bitterness in this world. Just imagine… if we ALL bought into this with the true grace and intentions of ministry of Jesus Christ?

    Please, visit and share here ANY time:

    GREAT STUFF! God Bless. +

  3. The Broken Says:

    WE POSTED THIS ARTICLE ON OUR PAGE! Hope you will plug in any time. All of this is what we call “The Good Stuff” and should be spread throughout our various channels of communication! Keep it coming! God bless! +

  4. DisappointedDaughter Says:

    Despite the fact that I confronted my father about the awful things he used to say to me whilst growing up (which has affected me later in life and still does), I still feel bitter and resentment towards him as he still says awful things to me and actually thinks it’s funny. I challenge him on this and it gives me a sense of control and satisfaction to do so. However, i’m still very bitter that a lot of time has been lost owing to my father’s constant chanting of “you won’t amount to anything” whilst growing up.

    I do understand that i’m imprisoning myself in a cell of despair by all this bitterness but the fact that people/loved ones can cause hurt and enjoy doing so (and keep doing it!), I just don’t feel I can forgive.

    My mum and siblings have been hurt by my bitterness and extremely sad as it sounds, it gives me a sense of satisfaction to do that because I want them to be hurt like I have. This does make me sad and cause me pain but it’s like I can’t help it because it’s mostly all i’ve felt anyway.

    He is my dad but we don’t talk much and I don’t tell him much about myself at all for fear of being put down time and time again.

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