Do you know the difference between anger and bitterness? A lot of people don't because the two are so closely related to each other that things get a little confusing. Two weeks ago I wrote all about anger. I said anger was a short-lived reaction while bitterness was a sustained feeling. In this post I want to elaborate on what I meant by that and really try to explain the differences between the two.
When you've been wronged, like by being bullied, it's normal to experience both anger and bitterness. The anger will come first with the bitterness coming after if the anger is not dealt with. Bitterness will consume you. You'll get to a point where everything rubs you the wrong way. You'll always feel like you're on the defensive but may not be sure why. Have you experienced this? Maybe people say you're moody, and you know they're right, but you don't know what to do about it.
Here are five ways in which I've experienced differences between anger and bitterness. I hope this list will give you a better understanding of what you're feeling and allow you to begin to deal with those feelings.
Anger can pass quickly; bitterness latches on and doesn't let go.
When you get angry you can usually get it to pass rather quickly. This may not always seem like the case but sometimes all you have to do is count to 10. That's an oversimplification but, the point is, anger doesn't last forever. Maybe you go for a long walk, or hit the gym, or try to get a good night's sleep and you're able to release that anger. You realize that you were upset in the moment, but now that it has passed you feel differently about the situation.
When you're experiencing bitterness you feel an underlying level of misery all the time. Bitterness feeds off of itself. The more bitter you are, the more miserable you feel; and the more miserable you feel, the more bitter you get. When you become bitter you may focus on revenge, and we all know how bad that is.
Anger isn't always bad; bitterness is never good.
Anger is a normal emotion and it lets us know when a situation is threatening. It's okay to feel angry at times if we've been wronged in some way, as long as we don't let that anger get out of control.
Bitterness keeps us from being happy. It keeps us in a constant state of feeling upset. Over time this can make us sick. It can also ruin our relationships with others and get in the way of forming new relationships. Bitterness provides no value.
We can control anger; bitterness controls us.
Anger can be managed. If we're feeling angry, there are things we can do to deal with that. We can allow ourselves to get angry in the moment, but then realize that once the moment passes there's no need to hold onto that anger.
Bitterness will control us because we won't know how to let it go. Like I said, bitterness will consume you, and it will be present in every aspect of your life. The feeling of bitterness will dictate how you are in every situation. And, most importantly, it will prevent you from being able to move on.
Anger is about a present hurt; bitterness is about a past hurt.
When we feel angry it's because of something that just happened. You can go from not feeling angry to feeling angry with the flip of a switch. If you hold onto that anger then it will last beyond the present moment but it will still be about something that happened fairly recently. It's not going to be about something that happened months ago. Something may have happened months ago that triggers anger in the present moment, but that will again become anger from a present hurt.
Bitterness lingers from something that happened in the past. Bitterness leads to resentment and holding a grudge. Even possibly wanting revenge. Bitterness is always there. You feel so hurt by something that was done to you in your past that you feel hurt all of the time. You're not able to process that hurt in a way that will allow you to think about it without feeling bitter.
Anger is loud; bitterness is quiet.
We all know what anger looks like, right? It's someone yelling and fuming over something that happened. Maybe they're throwing things or slamming things. It's impossible to talk to them. Anger involves loud emotional outbursts like this. Anger is "I'm mad and I want to make sure you know it." There's no attempt to mask anger.
Bitterness, on the other hand, is more internal. Typically, only the person who feels bitter will know about it. Bitterness like to quietly fester. If it festers to the point of making itself known to others then it has done so in the form of an angry outburst. The brunt of anger is felt by the person on the receiving end while the brunt of bitterness is felt by the person who harbors it. Bitterness is something that the embittered person stews in while no one knows about it.
I hope this list has helped you better understand the difference between anger and bitterness, because there certainly is a difference. In the next post I will be writing more about bitterness, in particular, and how bitterness only affects you and not the person or people you feel bitter towards. I'll also try to explain how bitterness can be overcome.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any stories or questions.
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