When someone hurts you

December 22, 2015

Maui 2015.

The realization that another person wishes to harm and hurt you can not undermine genuine compassion–a compassion based on the clear recognition of that person as someone who is suffering, who has the natural and instinctive desire to seek happiness and overcome suffering, just like oneself.

~Dalai Lama on compassion

That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? It’s a lot to take in and a significant challenge to practice.  Because when people lash out at us, all we can feel is the pain.

I’m thinking of someone I know who is consumed by hatred and bitterness for another, at what should be a happy time in his life.  For years he has gone out of his way to hurt the other, in large ways and small.  What’s so interesting is that she didn’t wrong him at all. HE wronged her. A fact.

There’s a theory I learned in college called cognitive dissonance. The gist of it is that there’s always a pull toward trying to balance inconsistent thoughts and attitudes. I’m sure he doesn’t think of himself as a cruel person, and it makes him uncomfortable to act out in those ways and still see himself as a nice person. To rationalize his bad behavior and bring his internal state into balance, he has to demonize her. “She deserves it,” is how he keeps emotionally balanced.

Yes, it’s peculiar but it’s human nature. It’s almost unbelievable what people will rationalize in order  to achieve a state of internal balance, as warped as it might be.  He didn’t always hate her. In fact, he loved her. But now that he has behaved badly, he has to rearrange his thinking about the situation.

The object of his hatred is someone I know well, too, and I’ve watched her go through a multitude of emotions and transitions.  YEARS of pain, as you might expect. Sleepless nights, tears, racking her brain for what she might have done to deserve it.

The answer is NOTHING. Not a thing.

In a world where so little is pure, this woman is pure. She comes from pure love. Is she perfect? No. But her guiding light has always been love and caring for others.

It’s no surprise that years down the line, she arrived at forgiveness.

“I feel sorry for his pain,” she said to me not too long ago.

If you knew how badly he’d treated her, you’d be just as amazed as I am that she reached forgiveness. That she could see his pain through her own.  Hey, it wasn’t easy. It took years. But that’s where she ended up. At forgiveness and love.

Now, with any luck, few of us will encounter someone who goes out of their way to hurt us.  But most of us have felt the sting of a friend’s betrayal or bad behavior. It hurts.

But, as the Dalai Lama points out, the healthiest and most loving response is to look beyond our hurt and view the other’s humanity through the lens of compassion and love.


41 comments on “When someone hurts you
  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I have a hard time getting over it when someone has hurt me. I try to move on, but it always ends up lingering.

  2. There is nothing greater than forgiveness – but it’s amazing how angry people get when you do forgive. Why aren’t you angry? they ask. Because acid corrodes the vessel it’s kept in, I say. But, you’re right, someone is looking to justify their bad behavior, and the more they realize this person won’t be as bad as they need them to be to justify it, the angrier they become. Kudos to your friend who forgives. Help to the friend who can’t stop the anger. Great piece.

  3. Barbara says:

    Forgiveness is for the forgiver more than the forgivee. It took me years to learn this. I despised my mother for stealing my childhood and blaming me for every mistake she ever made. It was a long list. But you can’t move on and grow emotionally when you’re consumed with hatred. I was eventually able to tell her I forgave her but I couldn’t have her in my life. That was the end of it.
    Excellent post, Carol.

  4. tara pittman says:

    It is so hard to look beyond the hurt. I am struggling with this and need to for healing.

  5. Mardene Carr says:

    That last statement there is pretty much how I have lived my life, much to the chagrin of my loved ones. Honestly it does not even make sense to hold on to it because it is not doing you any good. Many times they are so shocked by your reaction that they do not know what to say.

  6. Its a horrible thing to be around a person which such sadness and anger inside. Its very difficult to be around. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks for sharing this story, Carol. It’s also important to know that just because we forgive, doesn’t mean we condone the bad behavior. Nor, as Barbara noted, do we have to let the transgressor remain in our lives. There’s tremendous peace in forgiving and moving on–and that’s the point, right?

  8. Faye says:

    Forgiveness is so important – not so much for the person who does the hurting, but for the victim. We can’t truly move on from a situation until we forgive. I still struggle with this today.

  9. T.O. Weller says:

    Forgiveness is something I continue to struggle with, so life continues to present me with opportunities to learn.
    I keep thinking I’ve let something go and then — bam! — a word or action brings it back to the surface and the struggle begins again.
    I know it must come from within me; that depending on the other to change or apologize will not bring a lasting forgiveness within me. And I also know that I am the last person that should judge anyone and that withholding forgiveness is a form of judgement … but it’s still hard to release the hurt, especially when the hurt continues to be inflicted.
    Thank you for sharing this story. It’s more timely than you know.

  10. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Forgiveness means you can rid yourself of the burden you’ve been carrying. So yes, it is freeing to do so, but often too difficult. It astounds me to see families of murder victims forgive their killers. I don’t know how they can.

  11. andi says:

    All I know is that God has commanded me to forgive – and as hard as it can be sometimes….I still do it!

  12. My wise sister once told me that this person in my life who continually tries to hurt me had to be in pain. It was the only explanation for her behavior. I try to remember that and yes….forgive, it’s very hard. But I also decided that I didn’t have to have this person in my life and that was ok.

  13. Quin B says:

    And it’s not exclusive to men and women. I know women who are just as hateful toward other women and it’s so sad to see. Thanks for shedding some light on the subject.

  14. Toni McCloe says:

    What a beautiful post Carol. You mirrored those two people perfectly and with compassion for both.

  15. Carolann says:

    I have a pledge that I stand by for years now. No toxic people! Sure, you can forgive them, but the best thing she can do is to remove him from her life. I hope she did that. Forgiveness is great, but you can’t continue to suffer at someone else’s expense!

  16. Ruth Curran says:

    I can feel the emotion and your passion in every single word in this piece Carol. We have talked about how the only thing you can control is your reaction but, seriously, that feels in this case, like it is so much easier said than done. I think we jump to the defense of those we love — maybe a righting of the wrongs or something.

    In addition to cognitive dissonance, there is another concept that might fit — cognitive constructs. We operate in the world based on a whole set of things we “know” from experience from interpretation from facts from data around us and sometimes from our guts. That set of data, pure or flawed, is what we use to interpret and react to the world. Shifing that construct is hard work but it sounds like your pure friend has done just that — shift toward forgiveness therefore freeing herself. Thank you for sharing this oh so personal and thought provoking story.

  17. Donna says:

    I do tend to hold grudges… I don’t want to be that way, it just is hard for me to let go of anger and/or hurt feelings. I can, and do forgive, at least eventually, but I never forget. I do wish I could let things go, though.

  18. Elizabeth O. says:

    Before anything else, I always try to understand why a person acts a certain so as not to fuel my own anger. Understanding their reason for their actions definitely helps.

  19. Liz Mays says:

    That is such a hard thing to do — to let go and forgive. Ultimately, we release ourselves from its power over us when we do that though.

  20. What a beautiful post. Forgiveness is so important for healing.

  21. It can be very difficult to forgive someone who hurts you but, ultimately, it’s the only way to really heal.

  22. Victoria says:

    I think im in the process of this. Being bitternes and hatred

  23. Its true sometimes the people we think wrong us are just trying to help us become better people, there is a very fine line and it can be difficult to understand the difference between the two.

  24. michelle says:

    i think forgiveness is something that can do a lot of both parties. but it can also free the forgiver which is powerful. she sounds like a very strong lady

  25. This is such a touching post. I love all of the encouragement <3

  26. Lexie Lane says:

    Forgiveness is really hard give, I’m so thankful that i get over it. Get over for those who hurts me.

  27. Claudette says:

    Letting go is what I tend to call the process that is required of me to release myself from that chain. It is something that I have become somewhat of an expert in doing – granted, like your friend some people or situations are much harder and challenging to release. Great post! Namaste

  28. Jenn Peters says:

    It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own personal hurt feelings and not see the humanity and fallibility of others.

  29. Ave says:

    It’s so hard to forget when you have been hurt. I have learned that sometimes, forgiving makes the forgetting much easier.

  30. Sometimes the idea of “letting go” translates in our brain as giving up control and we all like to feel as though we are in control whether it’s an illusion or not.

    I’ve found “setting it down” works just as well for those who cannot “let it go.” It makes forgiving easier for me.

  31. angie says:

    my motto forgive but never forget

  32. Eileen says:

    I let things go and don’t say anything and then feel angry. Learning to let people know how I feel. Forgiveness is powerful, but we have to commit to forgiveness

  33. Such great touching post and Its true that Forgiveness is so important for healing.

  34. I think it takes a really strong person to be able to achieve that. It sounds like your friend is a pretty amazing woman!

  35. Lisa Rios says:

    I am just loving that beautiful & inspiring quote from Dalai Lama. It is always going to take sometime to heal when you are hurt by someone, but at the end of the day I always make sure to move on.

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