I see a lot of hurt people come through my chat rooms, and also a variety of different perspectives, reactions, and coping methods. Of them all, the most damaging is when people let how others treat them dictate not only who they are, but also how they in turn treat others. Sometimes people feel justified in being cruel in response to the actions of others, and feel it is somehow in their right to pay someone back. What’s more, people often defend their wrongful actions towards those who have not even hurt them ( by saying they are somehow excused, due to how others treated them in the past). These people often remain trapped, and held back by pain that does not really heal….and by the belief that causing the same pain in the person/ people that harmed them (and sometimes even in those who are innocent) will somehow take their pain away. It doesn’t. It does the opposite.
How other people treat us, what others give and do not give etc… does not need to define us, nor does it set any kind of standard (or rather, lack there of) that we must use in our own interactions with others. Yes, it hurts. Sometimes what others do and say can even be shattering, but the true way to rise above that pain, and to not let that person continue to affect you in negative ways…. is to not pass it on, or create a chain of harmful actions. Show them that they did not take away your light—that you can still love, and be kind to others.
We have all seen the verses from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (typically on cute home decor, pinterest memes etc…). Often they are reduced to just focus on the first words, or the first line…and the rest of it is lost, or ignored. The Kings James version is a little different ( charity is in place of the word love, and the wording is a bit different, but otherwise the same meaning), but I am going to use what most will be familiar with for the purposes of this blog.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
Essentially, those verses not only define what love is… but also what it is not, and should not be. Love is not about feeling jealousy. It is not something to show-off, and brag to others about…. nor something to view as a means of gaining personal status and validation from others (outside of the relationship). Love most certainly is not about causing harm to others. Additionally, real love cannot be found in someone who is just seeking to have their own desires fulfilled, rather than truly loving the other person. When we truly have love in our hearts, (even when we have been hurt or wronged)….we should not lash out in anger, or bitterly cling to every mistake and bad deed someone has done. Love does not exist in anything that is vindictive, let alone feeling pleasure in hurting others—regardless of what they may have done. Love is supposed to be something that shields not just others, but our own hearts. We should continue to see the best in people, and strive to move forward. Not only should we seek to remain open to love….. but to give it generously as well. It is a recipe of sorts. It says not only what love is, and isn’t— but also how we should, and should not react when we have been hurt, or even betrayed… especially if there is truly love within us.
Often, a person’s true character and depth of feeling will be revealed not during periods where things are going as they want (or lovey, romantic etc…), but rather when there are trials, conflicts, or when pain has been inflicted (be it intentional, or not). We can hold our heads up and act with grace, show our strength and dignity…. or we can try to “get back” at that person, ridicule them, cause harm to them, make things difficult for them etc… Even if we have to leave a situation for our own best interest, it can still be done in a way that does not stoop down, or put focus on lashing at the other person (especially in public ways). Ultimately there is nothing to truly be gained in seeking revenge. It is not noble, it does not reflect truly having ever loved the person, and it will not change anything, or make it better for you. Revenge might bring a temporary flare of twisted glee, but once that has burned-out, you still will be left empty-handed and heart-broken… because it won’t take the pain away, or fill any holes within you. Hate cannot heal.
So what can heal? Love. When we show grace and forgiveness (even if it is with the understanding that we can no-longer have someone in our lives) it is not just about the other person. Forgiveness is also about freeing our own selves so that we can move forward, and be free to continue living and loving without the weight of pain, anger, and hate on our hearts. When we react in anger towards another person, it may serve to make them feel justified in their choices and actions. However, when we show forgiveness, compassion etc…that is what truly might make someone take pause, and see the contrast in how they themselves behaved. It is through responding to things with love and kindness that we can grow, as well as help others to learn via being an example, and breaking the chains of repeated acts of hate ( which so often can pass person to person, and even through generations).
What about what others do not give? Just because others have ignored suffering, rejected you, or not helped you when you held your hands out….does that mean it is right to deny them (or others) in the same way when they are in need? Will that make us feel better, or help us to grow to become someone compassionate and kind? Again, we do not need to let others dictate what we do, or who we are in this area either. To some it seems strange that the poorest people (and those who have been denied love) tend to be the most giving, and the most loving…. however it is not odd at all. Often it is those who have gone without, and who have been denied and hurt….that truly understand, are able to see, and thus are also the ones to feel strongly compelled to prevent others from feeling that kind of suffering.
I wish I could say that I have always responded to things in love. Years ago, when my mind was racing with confusion, heartbreak, and the sense of being thrown away…I did something that I now regret. I listened to others who told me that I needed to demand something back, and that I could not let anything more be taken from me. I did not even care about it, and would not have even thought about it on my own… but at that time I felt “stupid”, and did not trust my own instincts. I went against myself, and let myself be convinced it would somehow conclude things. I have wished ever-since that I had let it go, and just gone with my own heart on the matter. I tried to at least handle things better, and more respectfully after that… and the mistake taught me how not to “resolve” things. In the end, we still have to live with our own selves, and find our own ways to find inner resolution and peace…. and it is hard to achieve those things unless you truly let go and forgive. Sometimes we have to forgive our own selves as well.
So, whether you are hurting now, or find yourself facing a difficult situation in the future….try to resist that instinctive urge to slap back. It is not just about coming to peace with the person who has caused harm, but also about loving yourself enough to not be dragged-down, or to eventually experience guilt for actions that did not reflect the person you are, or want to be. Let love guide you, not pain or anger.