Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bitter vs. Better Part 2: How to Become Better


On yesterday’s post, To Become Bitter or Better? The Choice is Yours, I wrote about the choice that we have when our relationships end on not so friendly terms. Quite a few readers have let me know of the encouragement that that post was to them. A gentleman in Canada reached out to me to share that the post was quite timely for him. He’s in the middle of a messy divorce and he has justifiable reasons to be bitter. But the message that I shared spoke to his heart and he’s beginning to see things in a different way.
Today I’d like to continue on the bitter vs. better theme. When I speak with persons who are in the middle of a divorce, it’s amazing to me how they readily tell me things like, “You know what he did?” or “Can you believe she said that?” Yet if you talk to most of these persons a few years down the road, their conversation is of a totally different tone. My mom always says, “Time heals all wounds.” This is so very true.
Can you relate to this? I know even from my own experience, with former relationships, when they ended on unfriendly terms, I seemingly was ready to tell anyone willing to listen all the negative things I could. With time and experience, I’ve grown so much. Now I realize that human nature is to react in a negative way. When we feel that we’re wronged, by nature we want to get even and let the person who caused us pain feel similar pain. That’s just how we are.
When my first marriage ended, I was bitter. I didn’t like the way that things transpired. I felt that the court system was biased. I felt that my ex didn’t treat me fairly. I didn’t like the effect all of this had on my daughter. I was really hurting and I just wanted others to know. You see, what had happened was that I was wounded. And just like when we get a fresh wound, I was in severe pain and bleeding, in a sense. I was emotionally fragile and really needed to be nursed back to health. I couldn’t eat. I lost 30 lbs in a month. Weight Watchers had nothing on me!
Over time, however, when I learned of the better vs. bitter choice that I had, I said to myself, “You’re better than that Rodrick Walters. You’re not a bitter man. You like to laugh and play and be jovial. Don’t let anything cause you to become who you are not.” I literally spoke aloud those words to myself. And for me, that’s when the healing began.
Today, if someone asks me about my former marriage, I’ll gladly and readily speak of it. It’s not something I think about each day. It no longer controls me but I’ll speak of it without any negativity. Would it be crazy if I said that that experience was a necessary step for me to go through to become the man that I am today?  It sounds crazy but I believe it to be true.
One thing that you will never hear from me is anything negative about my former wife – on this blog or in real life. Some people cannot wait to tell others how horrible a person their former spouse is. My response to that is, if they were so horrible, then why did you marry them in the first place? I wouldn’t claim that my former wife and I are good friends today but I respect her immensely. She’s a loving mother and though we are no longer married, I believe that she’s a good person and I wish her nothing but the best.
The fact that I’m writing and sharing these things means to me that I’m totally healed from that situation. A few years ago, it would have pained me to say that. Have you ever heard it said that hurt people hurt people? Well, when I was hurt, I was willing to tell others negative things about her. But growth and maturity have brought me a long way and I’m so glad for that.
How am I better for having gone through that experience? Well, for one, I’m so much more equipped to share the message of hope with others. Most the poems in my book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation were written after that experience. When it was released a few years ago, it was on the Barnes & Noble and Amazon bestseller list in the Self Help New Releases category. It has been a source of encouragement for so many.
And with the Upbeat Dad, I couldn’t ask for a better platform to speak on the issues of fatherhood. Had my first marriage been a “happily ever after” story, then I likely would not have the passion for fatherhood that I do today. I certainly wouldn’t have the insight to encourage divorced and single parents like I do now. I think that I have earned the privilege to speak to others on these matters because of my horrible experience. Today, just over 3 months after launching our blog, we have over 8,000 page views, with readers on every continent.
On February 10th, we’re having our first live event, The Upbeat Dad Community Forum. Organizations such as the Miami Dolphins are coming out to this event as we deal with the issue, “Where Are Our Fathers?” I couldn’t have dreamed up this stuff – I went through a difficult divorce with a young child. And years later, I am able to help others – men, women and kids – as they deal with some serious life issues. I guess that’s my reward for choosing to become better instead of remaining bitter. 
If you’re in the midst of emotional turmoil because of the manifestation of the term, “It’s a thin line between love and hate,” then I challenge you today to embrace your hurts and pain and say, “I will be better for this.” You can never change the past. It wants to control you but don’t give in to it. Smile in the middle of your storm. Dance in the rain because the pain is not there to kill you – it’s there to make you stronger. Your reward is awaiting you. Don’t get sidetracked by the issues of the moment – instead, focus on the great things that can result after you make it through the storm. Don’t be like the larva that dies in a cocoon – go through the process and soon you’ll be flying high like a butterfly!
The wonderful thing is that when you take this approach, no hurt or harm that you experience will ever be the same. And all it takes is you making the decision to embrace what comes your way and making the best of it. I could never write to a worldwide audience on the subject of fatherhood if all I knew about the subject was the beautiful, wonderful part. I’m not seeking to enroll in that class again – I learned my lesson the first time and I so appreciate what I learned. Today I have the love of my wonderful wife and my two children. And as a bonus, I get to share this uplifting message with a worldwide audience. What more could I ask for?
I implore you to commit to turning your lemons into lemonade. I’m not saying it’s easy but I promise you that it’s worth it. I think that you have so much good to offer your fellowmen. Choose to become better even in the midst of your hurts. Because when you do, your life can be used as an instrument of encouragment to people all around you and those within your sphere of influence.

Enjoy a wonderful and productive day.
The Upbeat Dad

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