When we meet with acts of love or hatred, victory or defeat, we experience a certain feeling of joy or sorrow. Such feelings are normal in human life. When people accuse us or indifferent towards us we experience a certain amount of hurt feeling towards them. If we hold on to this hurt feeling we experience pain and it robes our joy and peace of mind. Bitterness is unforgiveness fermented. Bitterness occurs when we feel someone has taken something from us and that we are powerless to get it back. We hold on to the hurt in order to remind ourselves and others of the injustice we have experienced.
We sometimes look for opportunity to take revenge on the other and establish justice. Unfortunately, bitterness only makes the feeling of the injustice grow. It does nothing to heal the wound caused by injustice. In fact, it causes the wound to become infected with anger. Though anger can be just and moral, it impels us to seek solution for the wrongs we have experienced or witnessed. But bitterness is quieter and it slowly poisons our lives until we lose our joy and inner peace.
We need to pay attention to our feelings in our daily life. The Examination of Conscience at the end of the day will help us to re-look at our feelings and find solutions to our hurt feelings. First of all, when we experience bitterness we should learn to forgive others and forget the hurt feelings. According to St. Augustine, “Forgiveness is simply an act of surrendering our desire for revenge; our desire to hurt someone for having hurt us”. Forgiveness is the gift we give to ourselves that enables us to stop reminding ourselves of the hurt feeling. Forgiveness allows us to begin the process of healing the wound.
Secondly, when we are hurt, we have the tendency to play those painful events over and over in our head or tell anyone who will listen about our pain. It may be good to talk to people whom we think can help us to heal the hurt and facilitate reconciliation or help us to overcome the bitterness. We should stop dwelling on the story of the injury and speaking to others freely.
Thirdly, it will be impossible to heal some wounds without God’s grace. Bitterness causes us to shun God’s grace in favour of obsessing over the wound. It would be wise to go to confession. Confession can open our hearts to receive the healing that God wants to give us. It can help us to surrender the pain and powerlessness. God’s grace will help us to be free from the bonds of bitterness
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb 12:5).
During this Year of God’s mercy, let us give up bitterness and revenge and be reconciled with God and others. May the Risen Lord bless you and your dear and near ones and bestow on you all joy and peace.
Most Rev. Dr. M. Devadass Ambrose
Bishop of Thanjavur