“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So, use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You note it. You do everything about it. You talk it. You never stop talking it.”Maya Angelou
I’ve been called angry most of my life, and they weren’t lying. I am angry. I’m angry about white supremacy. I’m angry at my abusers. I’m angry at the co-workers who tried to get me fired. I’m angry at the betrayal from friends and family. Gotdammit I am angry! But you know what? My anger is righteous. It is justified. It is beautiful in all its flaming glory. My anger inspires me to move forward. It inspires me to fight for my rights and the rights of others. It propels me to speak up instead of choosing to choke on my words. My anger has cleared a path that I can follow to live a life of purpose that honors my ancestors and my people. My anger pushes me to see beyond the illusions and lies others have projected onto me to see the truth of who I am. I am angry, but I am also joy. I am beauty. I am harmony. My anger flows like a river, always moving, never stagnant. My anger is a light bringing warmth to my soul, holding sacred space for my healing.
I’ve never been called bitter though. Bitterness is a different kind of animal. It isn’t righteous or justified. It makes you ugly and unbearable to be around. Bitterness breeds self-loathing. Bitterness causes you to sink in the stagnant murky waters of self-pity. Bitterness is systemic and is deeply rooted in the heart. Bitterness makes you blame everyone to shirk from personal responsibility. It has been said, “You are responsible for how long you let what hurt you haunt you”. Bitterness haunts you and makes you stay in places longer than you should. Bitterness, you can smell a mile away and the stench is insufferable. Bitterness doesn’t move you; it kills you. It kills your joy, your beauty, and your peace. Madisyn Taylor explains, “Bitter feelings allow us to become the perfect victims, in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing”. Being bitter means being sick and in pain forever. You remain a victim forever. Bitterness means reliving the trauma over and over again. Bitterness, unlike anger doesn’t hold space for healing, it becomes a prison of pain. The keys of which you hold. It has been explained that the nature of bitterness is rooted in the fact that the pain we feel provides us with a rationale. Bitterness tells us that we don’t have to get better, in fact that we are better off the way we are.
Being bitter is an unfortunate choice so many have made. But the beauty of life is that we can always, always decide to make a different choice at any time. The simple decision that you desire healing is a powerful catalyst to begin to uproot the bitterness supplanted in the heart.
It is ok to be angry. Let it move you. Let it flow. If you let it sit for too long, you will begin to nurture it, water it, and fertilize it. The roots of anger will deepen in your heart to form bitterness and that will kill you. As Dr. Angelou said, “You should be angry. You must not be bitter”.
Kathleen Nicole is an author, motivational speaker, and radical self-healer who uses the power of ancestral wisdom and strength to inspire others to be the best version of themselves. She is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Yin Yoga Instructor and Intermittent Fasting Guru.