Someone in my larger family has, over the years, gone from a funny, likeable, although acid-tongued, woman to a bitter, aggressive, isolated one.
It happened so gradually I don't think any of us realised how serious it had become.
But there seem to be two consistent symptoms: anger and unforgiveness.
I think back to how she used to be and wonder how she turned into this stranger -
Rage, rage, rage, against the world, the country, everything and everyone
I know that the person I'm talking about has had much pain in her life.
Professional help has been offered but I think she has chosen her path -
Anger that has gone the extra mile; bred with unforgiveness, and the awful offspring is bitterness.
What bitterness can produce!
How it leeches laughter and affection out!
How it alienates people!
How sour and hate-filled people can become!
I have observed anger in others (and myself) and there seem to be other common denominators - hurt and self pity.
The pain of things like:
Loss. Bereavement. Rejection. Exclusion.
Betrayal. Being misunderstood. Being treated as less-than. . . .
Isn't it possible that much (if not all) anger starts with hurt of some kind? And a refusal to forgive whoever caused us that pain?
To be honest, my anger at poor DH (back in the days) when he suggested things to help me with my cooking, came from nothing more than hurt feelings - or hurt pride -
"Does he think I'm such a dork that I can't even make a simple meal!?"
If a husband doesnt say "Of course not!" fast enough when his wife asks him if she looks fat in her new pants, its easier to get mad than admit her pain at his implied criticism of her body . . .
With such simple examples, it becomes easier to see . .
After all, it is much easier emotionally to deal with anger (which makes you feel strong and in control) than it is to deal with pain (which makes you feel weak, vulnerable and helpless).
Think how much easier it is to say "I'm so mad about . . ."
Than it is to say "I'm so hurt by . . "
Confessing hurt feels pathetic and - you could be opening yourself up to more hurt -
What if the person you confide in adds to your pain?!
Anger seems the safer option.
It is said that hurt people hurt people.
Maybe thats because hurt people morph into angry people . . .
One thing - the only thing - good to come out of this is that the people around her can learn from her mistakes -
The instruction not to let our anger last more than a day? *
We can take it seriously!
The warning that bitterness brings trouble and poisons many? *
We can take that seriously too.
And never have to live in the dark lonely hate-filled prison that bitterness builds.
* Ephesians 4:26
* Hebrews 12:15