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Breaking the Bitterness Cycle: 5 Steps to Healing

Breaking the bitterness cycle can be tough but it is possible. Over time and through consistent effort you'll beat bitterness for good.

In 1993, the United States of America changed and would never be the same again. A Taiwanese company imported a product that would change the tastes of young people for the next ten years. This product was not for the faint of heart; many times it would be a rite of passage among children to see how long they could handle this without breaking down into tears or holding it in their mouth for as long as possible with a straight face, acting as though it wasn’t even having an effect on them.

Have you figured out what the mystery product is yet?

It’s a hard circular candy that was named after a missile used by the military.

It comes in five distinct flavors.

The answer, of course, is the Warhead.

This candy was very popular in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, as it caused kids all over America to cry.

For me, this candy was a proving ground that separated the men from the boys. We’d go down to the store and get a giant three-pound bag of the assorted flavors, and then we’d begin having our contests. We as a neighborhood had three different categories in the Warhead challenge that we competed in almost daily.

  1. How many Warheads you could eat in five minutes
  2. How many lemon-flavored warheads could you have in your mouth at once? (For some reason, we dubbed the yellow Warhead the sourest of the bunch)
  3. And the holy grail of the competition is how many Warheads you can fit in your mouth at the same time.

This was the main competition, with the other two being fun, but everyone was most excited about this final portion of the game. At one time, we had a record of 23 Warheads. I remember that vividly because I was the one who achieved it, and growing up in the Chicago area, the number 23 was the answer to everything. Completing this heroic act made me the talk of the neighborhood for the rest of the week.

The problem arose when I realized that my taste buds were completely shot. During a BBQ at church that weekend, I couldn’t taste a thing; the burgers seemed flavorless, and the chips burned my mouth as if they were extremely bitter. Regardless of what I ate over the next few days, whether it was good, bad, or otherwise, everything tasted bad and had a bitter aftertaste. That one afternoon had ruined a whole week of good experiences because it affected every single interaction with food I had.

Don't begin the journey of breaking the bitterness cycle without including friends and family. You don't have to be alone.

This brings us to our main point: Bitterness is like the Warhead to our mind. All of us have experienced bitterness, whether it stems from a past relationship, a less-than-amicable split from an employer, a friend, or problems within a church. Something was done to us that sparked feelings of anger, jealousy, frustration, and sometimes pure hatred towards someone or something that wronged us.

The issue with bitterness is that it doesn’t just affect us in one aspect of our lives; it usually spills over and taints everything else that is good in our lives.

Perhaps it’s something an old friend did to you, and now every relationship you enter feels like a repeat of that betrayal, something you despise. Or maybe you left your past employer on bad terms, and it’s spilling over into your new job, affecting your demeanor and performance. Whatever the situation, anyone reading this knows that bitterness changes who you are and ultimately overtakes your life with negative thinking.

We all have to fight off bitterness at some point in our lives. Breaking the bitterness cycle is something we all must learn to do, together.

There are many parallels between eating a sour candy and harboring bitterness towards someone in your life, but there’s a crucial difference. When you pop a Warhead in your mouth and temporarily lose your sense of taste, it only affects you. However, bitterness in your heart affects every person around you. 

Being bitter transforms you into a cynical version of yourself, altering how others perceive and interact with you. People may treat you differently, stop inviting you around, or even cease associating with you altogether. These reactions can fuel your bitterness further or serve as a wake-up call to initiate change.

When bitterness takes hold in one family member, it spreads throughout the household, clouding every interaction and relationship. The once-warm atmosphere becomes tense, communication strains and resentment overshadows love.

Children are especially sensitive to the emotional vibe at home. When a parent is bitter, their behavior changes, leaving kids confused, insecure, and doubtful. They may also pick up unhealthy ways of dealing with emotions, passing bitterness to future generations.

Spouses or partners aren’t immune either. The strong bond they once shared weakens as bitterness festers. Intimacy fades, and every conversation feels like walking on eggshells.

The effects of bitterness don’t stop at home. Relatives, friends, and even colleagues feel the tension. Social gatherings become uncomfortable, filled with awkward moments and hidden hostility. This isolation only deepens the bitterness.

Breaking the bitterness cycle takes courage, humility, and a willingness to face painful emotions. Seeking support from loved ones, therapy, or spiritual guidance can help rebuild relationships, restoring peace and harmony at home.

You wouldn’t be reading this right now if you didn’t want to make a change in your life and stop letting bitterness affect everything around you.

So, how do we overcome this feeling of bitterness? 

5 Steps to Breaking the Bitterness Cycle

1. Recognizing you have a problem

This is your classic “snowball” effect: once you realize you have a problem, it becomes easier to work towards overcoming bitterness. Here’s how I realized I had extreme bitterness issues: I no longer found joy in the things I used to love. For example, I used to enjoy going to church, being around the kids and the youth, talking to parents and volunteers, and participating in church events. However, bitterness made me turn cynical towards the things I once loved most.

2. Own up to your part.

 When a bad situation occurs, it’s common to blame others and use it as an excuse to feel upset. However, when we take ownership of our part in the situation, we have a better chance of moving forward. Many successful individuals employ the “post-mortem” tactic to analyze mistakes and improve for future encounters with similar problems.

3. Forgive

This can be challenging for some, but to overcome bitterness, we must embrace forgiveness. Regardless of who caused the problem, it’s essential to forgive them to move forward successfully. Forgiveness doesn’t require you to reconcile with that person or pretend everything is okay; instead, it’s a significant step in allowing the wound to heal instead of continuously picking at the scar it left behind.

4. Seek Help

Do you have a trusted mentor, counselor, or pastor you can confide in? If not, it’s beneficial in life to have one. If you do, it might be a good idea to seek their outside opinion on your specific situation. Having someone who is impartial and not directly involved can offer advice from a perspective you might not see yourself.

5. Seek God

I wanted to place this option last for two reasons:

  1. Some people who read these articles may not be followers of Jesus, and that’s okay.
  2. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, this step is the most important.

When we seek God and ask for help, He will be there for us.

To conclude this blog post on breaking the bitterness cycle, I wanted to quote David in Psalms as he wrote this passage to God, and I believe all of us reading this should use this verse in our prayers.

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Thanks for reading.



This blog post was written by Jon Thies, Family ID’s Director of Business Operations