Monitors beeping. Doctors and nurses scurrying around. People in pain all around us.
These were all normal sounds for me as I sat through yet another emergency room visit with my husband. He’s been battling a chronic illness for years, so this was just a normal Tuesday for us.
But then, amidst all the ER chaos, a lullaby was played over the loudspeaker. A baby had just been born two floors above, and the hospital was marking the occasion for everyone to hear. In that moment, all I could do was roll my eyes and think to myself sarcastically: “Good. For. You.”
Don’t get me wrong. Babies are great. I love the fact that the hospital celebrates each new life. But in that moment, it felt so unfair that the rest of the world got to move on and make happy memories while I was stuck in a really sad place. The familiar feeling of bitterness started to creep up inside me.
It wasn’t the first time bitterness hit hard, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. If you find yourself feeling stuck in a place you don’t want to be in, I get it. It can be hard to fight the bitterness of watching those around you enjoying their best days while you’re having your worst. But here are 3 things I’ve found helpful when it comes to battling bitterness:
Social media feeds the beast of bitterness that lives inside all of us better than anything. We all know that Instagram filters don’t equal real life, but it doesn’t make it any easier to see a feed full of wedding photos and #blessed vacation posts.
While taking a social media fast may help, my favorite feature is the unfollow function for Facebook/the hide function for Instagram.
See those 3 little dots in the top right corner of each post in your feed? Hit “unfollow” on Facebook and “hide” on Instagram if there’s a certain friend that’s providing too many calories to your bitterness beast.
It might seem cruel, but hear me out. You’re not cutting this person out of your life. They will not know you unfollowed them. And hiding their posts for a few months does not mean you have any less love for them.
In fact, it will make it easier to celebrate them in person. When they tell you about their engagement, or dream vacation, or new job, it’s SO much easier to be genuinely happy for them when you’re face-to-face vs. when your emotions punch you in the gut from the pages of Instagram.
2. Find Your Safe Spaces
Going through trauma radically wrecked my friend circle. The people I thought would always be there for me were not. But in their absence, others stepped up and showed me unconditional love on the days I couldn’t stop crying.
Find the friends who you can be yourself around—the ones who can take on the honesty of your “stuck” feelings. Let them lift you up. Let them distract you with memes and gifs. Share in their joys while they share in your pain. They’re the ones who don’t anger the bitterness beast because the mutual love between you allows you to support each other—in the good times and the bad.
Still trying to find those friends? That’s ok! There are other safe spaces you can turn to. I highly recommend counseling to everyone (whether you’re going through a rough time or not.)
I’ve also found my safe spaces in online forums. If something has rocked your world and no one in your life understands it, look on Facebook for a group about that specific thing. One of my favorite people to talk to is a woman who is walking through her husband’s cancer diagnosis. She lives halfway across the country, and we’ll probably never meet. But she understands my day-to-day hospital life better than anyone I know.
3. Be Sad.
This may feel counterintuitive. It took a long time to get to the place where I could just openly admit, “This is not where I want my life to be, and I’m sad.”
Believe it or not, there’s freedom in sadness. I found that when I could admit my true feelings, it opened the door for genuine joy. Faking happiness only leads to more resentment. But when I started being honest about how I was really feeling with God and with others, it lifted a huge burden off my chest and let me feel the full embrace of His comfort.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. -Psalm 34:18
And trust me. Handing over a crushed spirit is way easier than trying to tame a bitterness beast.