Whenever someone has shared the expression “Hurt People Hurt People” with me, I understand what they are trying to communicate. And it’s true. Pain can bring out the worst in a person. But I want to go a step further.
All People Hurt People
Hurt Happens. We will all be the cause of someone else’s hurt, and, unfortunately, we cannot prevent that from happening if we choose to be in relationship with other people.
When we are talking about emotional pain, we are talking about emotions. They are right there in the name. Sometimes we simply say the wrong thing at the wrong time without even knowing it would hurt someone. Sometimes there’s a misunderstanding. It can be as simple as an innocent mistake. But someone has been hurt, nonetheless.
Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to prevent ourselves from causing others negative emotion; we will fail. And the irony of this behavior is that our efforts to prevent someone else’s negative emotion typically create more negative emotions. This is because controlling other’s emotions, even the bad ones, prevents them from freely working through their feelings, and they learn to resent us.
So, do we give up? I suggest we refocus.
If we will inevitably hurt people from time to time, what happens if we shift our attention to avoid harming others. Hurt is an emotion people feel, harm is actual damage to the person. And while we may still fall short of perfection, it is a much easier goal because there are fewer things cause true harm. If you do identify that you have harmed another, address it immediately and change that behavior.
I am not suggesting we turn a blind eye if we hurt someone. If someone tells us they are hurt, we can acknowledge their feelings even when we did not intend to hurt them. If we did hurt someone intentionally, I need to take ownership of my actions. But, overall, focusing my energy on not causing harm gives me a much better chance to grow relationally with others.
How do you differentiate between hurt and harm?