If you look up the word bitter, you’ll find it is synonymous with the word single.
Ok, not really. But sometimes it might as well be.
Simply googling the words bitter and single it appears the two are quite the compatible pair. The results come to a resounding 99,800,000 finds. The first few post titles include 7 Signs You’re the Bitter Single Friend, Proof You’re Turning into the Bitter Single Woman You Never Wanted to Be, and my favorite How to Spot a Single and Bitter Woman in Her 30’s. (Which happens to be number five on the list of Google findings.)
As single girls age there seems to be more room for irritability and bitterness. (Which is also true for any woman. Who are we kidding?) But the catapulting emotion of bitterness is birthed out of something beyond thin air. Clearly no woman sets out to the bitter and single. Single, maybe for a season. But no one ever sets out to be identified as bitter. So how does this character creep up on us?
Women are quite emotional beings. This has even been repeatedly established via neurological research. So for those of us who are single, there are a lot of emotions that can be felt through this season. And there also happens to be ample time to engage them. I think some young girls assume the older you get the less emotional you’ll feel. That becoming a single career woman somehow bolsters one into a new level of assurance and confidence, which for certain it does. Yet for the female being, regardless of her current state in life, there always seems to be room for emotion. Often for the many surges of emotions you may choose to engage now, will likely affect the emotional waves fueling your way into adulthood. And not necessarily emotional, as if always crying, “Oh, woe is me! I’m single and all alone!” (Though no doubt that’s a popular one.) But the whirlwind of feelings one can entertain can range from whining, to woe is me, to irritability, to being highly sensitive, to anger and maybe even to belittling those around you, even if it is in the most subtle ways (because if you’re female, you know the seemingly subtle ones tend to be the nastiest.)
The female psyche is a complicated thing. We know we’re complicated. And, if we’re honest, we often even confuse ourselves. So when a woman feels the emptiness of her singleness, when she feels forgotten, she easily allows herself to deeply feel more than necessary. To feel mad, unwanted, belittled and, in result, often become bitter.
If anything in current culture has fueled this, it is what we feel is our right to feel. It is also our deep, sometimes overwhelming concern for ourselves which is often encouraged by a misunderstood message of self-love that continues to stroke our self-focused egos.
Feelings are now, more than ever, considered a beautiful thing. A rite of passage. Particularly when they are our own. They are considered to be celebrated, honored, fully-expressed and our God-given right to be fully felt and conveyed to all of those around us.
In regards to an unwavering faith, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity on the power of emotions, and the power we can have over them, if we so choose:
Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes….That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.
(Forgive me, but leave it to a man to see the matter of emotions so plainly and clearly.)
Singleness can breed a great many things. But the one thing we often allow it to nurture is disdain for our circumstances, and disdain for anyone and anything that may appear to have what we want. This time allotted for us to be single is meant to be beautiful, and can be if we choose to reign over our emotions instead of letting them reign over us.
If only we may take heed to what the great Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey once said, “Stop whining, and find something to do.” After all, the person most likely to turn into an old bitter woman is no doubt a young bitter woman.