How to Let Go of Bitterness

Four ways to pay down the Emotional Debt of bitterness

A couple weeks ago we talked about how bitterness is a poison and my story about Bob. Today we’re going to cover four tools that I used to pay it down:

  1. Find a good listener

  2. Get some perspective

  3. Understand people have their own junk

  4. Forgive

Find a Good Listener

One of the most helpful tools that helped me overcome my bitterness was talking with my therapist because he was a really good listener.

He gave me space to feel everything I needed to feel. He let me be angry. He let me be sad. He let me be confused and frustrated. He stuck with me through every step of my emotional roller coaster ride.

This allowed me to say everything that I needed to say. Instead of keeping my unresolved emotions pent up, I was finally able to express myself without any fear of judgment. I was finally able to expose the junk I was carrying inside of me, which was like taking an invisible weight of pain off of my shoulders.

But the most important part this whole process of him listening was that I felt loved. I felt safe. My trust in authority figures had been broken and his compassionate responses and consistent character helped me build it back up. Slowly but surely, my interactions with him were replacing my bitter memories.

Get Some Perspective

Another tool that helped was talking to a friend that I trusted. At the end of the story he said, “Yea Andrew. Sounds like he was an insecure leader.”

“That’s a thing?” I said shocked.

I started looking up what an insecure leader was and I was blown away with what I found. I realized that others had similar experiences to me. That there were specific traits you could look for. I found articles that explained how and why their insecurity would lead to anger and then it all clicked in my head. I finally understood why Bob acted the way that he did.

This was a crucial turning point for me. With an outside perspective, I was able to see things I wasn’t able to before. For example, I was able to identify patterns of behavior that revealed Bob’s insecurity. This has been really helpful as I’ve encountered a few insecure leaders since then. Now I am able to see similar patterns and take steps to protect myself.

But more importantly, I also started to see a more complete picture of who Bob was and that he had his own issues to work through. This leads me to the next tool that helped me let go of my bitterness.

Understand People Have Their Own Junk

First, let me be clear. Understanding that Bob has his own junk does not justify his actions. This in no way exonerates him from the pain that he caused. But it does provide clarity and give an explanation for why he would lash out whenever I disagreed with him. This helped to challenge the false beliefs that I had about myself.

For example, one of the reasons why I was so devastated by my relationship with Bob was that I believed that there was something wrong with me. That there was something about me as a person that turned me into the object of his hate. There may be some level of truth to this. I recognize I am not completely blameless. But I also realize that his hatred had more to do with his junk than it did with me.

I wasn’t the object of his anger. It was his junk.


Forgiving Bob was hard.

The first step was to admit that Bob hurt me. At some level, I was still in denial. I didn’t want to admit that Bob had that much influence over me. That I had questioned my core identity because of him. But admitting this truth forced me to come to terms with what happened and helped bring closure.

Then, I had to take some of responsibility for my own actions. I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t perfect. There were times during the trip when I did things that I knew would get Bob riled up. I needed to own up to that.

Next, I needed to let go of all the bitterness and resentment I had built up over the years. Letting go of all the time, energy, and effort I put in felt like a waste. It’s a silly example, but it was kind of like asking me to throw away the Pokemon cards that I had spent years collecting as a kid. But honestly, I was tired. I was exhausted from holding onto the pain. So eventually I decided that having a brighter future was worth more to me than holding onto my past.

Finally, I had to extend some level of grace towards Bob. This was hard. He hurt me a lot and it was the last thing I wanted to do. But I realized that Bob was a human being. He was imperfect just like I am imperfect. As a Christian, I believe that I was given gift of grace from God that I did not deserve. I was forgiven for things I should have been held accountable for. This was an opportunity for me to extend the same kind of grace to Bob.

It was at the end of this long process that the power of bitterness stopped dominating my life. By letting go of the painful memories that had attached to my heart, I allowed new ones to come in. This is when I started to heal. This is when I started to thrive. This is when I found freedom.

Although I still occasionally struggle with some of the effects of this bitterness in my life, I can confidently say it no longer controls me.

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