10 Min Read
I can’t imagine how many of us have been hurt by someone we love or at least someone we admire. I can imagine that the most memorably painful blows are dealt by people we love and trust most.
A family member, a spouse, or a trusted friend who mistreated us and never stopped to think of their words or their actions. Never apologized for it.
But why? We ask.
Why would they do that to me? What did I do wrong?
I can also imagine the struggle of dealing with guilt and the disillusionment over whether you’re responsible for the offense you’ve suffered. You wonder if the harm you’ve suffered was because of that one thing you did on Tuesday or the one thing you said six years ago.
You are harassed by someone bent on reducing you to a bag of misery. You are tormented by your mind of it. Paralyzed by the fear of repeating what you believe is the same mistake and receiving the same kind of treatment again, again and again.
This cycle of torture can change how we operate. It can change how we behave without us even knowing it.
I remember working in a firm where majority of the staff treated me with warmth, friendship, and a welcoming spirit. I recall how on my first day one of the staff members of the executive team came up and gave me a bear hug, a gentlemanly smile, and a welcome cheer. The reception could not have gone any smoother, until, that is, a coworker had what I believe, a bone to pick with me.
From degrading my work to reducing me to fodder in front of other coworkers, belittling me in private and dismissing that behavior when confronted led me to believe I was at fault.
Gaslighting 101, amiright?
What was a one time the most favorable work environment quickly spiraled into what I could call a living helll. I would wake up every morning dreading the possibility of making eye contact with this coworker. It took me 25 minutes to drive to work and with every kilometer traveled I felt a sense of panic overwhelm me. Panic would control me.
At one point, gripped by the fear and anxiety of what I look back now and call bullying and harassment, I asked another coworker to cover my post because I could feel my facial muscles tighten, my pulse become rapid, I felt my senses were heightened and I would sweat purfusely. I would sweat through my undershirt and my regular shirt all the way into my winter coat. I could not concentrate, focus, discern my emotions, my current situation because my mind, throughout the day and throughout my tenure there had, to this point, been a living, waking hell where I was imprisoned to this place for my income and survival, whilst battling the idea that I might be responsible for being a victim of bullying tactics. If it must have been something I said, something I had done. It must have been me.
After I asked my coworker for assistance I rushed out of the building for air. I couldn’t retain oxygen as if, I presumed, my chest didn’t want to breathe. My lungs could not hold air and I was losing my mind. I was having a panic attack at work.
I soon thought the pacifist in me would become a warmonger. My Christian upbringing was slipping as I contemplated violence as a form of retribution for what I believed was wrong and deserving of punishment.
Under this constant pressure, anxiety, stress, and trauma I was becoming someone other than myself. I was allowing certain patterns of thought which had not consumed me before, to overwhelm and control me. Whereas in the past I would shy away from raising my fists here I relished the thought. In the past I was always admonished to use my words wisely, in a way that wouldn’t nullify my witness of Jesus but here I welcomed nothing but the thought of destroying a human being with my words.
I cursed in my mind. I cursed in the car. I cursed in the bathroom at work. And one time, on my way home from work, what I thought was an accident had caused a traffic jam so bad it delayed my trip home. My wife needed the one car we owned so that she could head off to her night job. This traffic delay or accident, whatever it was, turned a 25 minute drive home into a one hour and ten minute build up of volcanic proportions.
Once my car reached the scene of what I thought was a construction site, an accident or even police lights was nothing but a delay caused by people who had decided to slow down on our side of the highway to observe a truck that had slid off the road on the opposite side of the highway.
The delay was caused by drivers decided to slow down just to see what happened on the other side of the road.
From that moment on the roads were clear and my realization of how stupid humans can be and how their choices effect those around them, killed me. I drove for the next twenty minutes above the speed limit and I screamed.
I screamed like I had never screamed before. I screamed so much I felt as if my throat wanted to split from my neck, in an attempt to preserve its longevity, but I would not let this hostage escape.
I screamed at the sky, the air, the cars, the road, other drivers, at the truck that slid off the road, (mind you nothing happened to the truck or the driver.) And I screamed so much that my vision became blurry as I drove. This delay made my wife late to work and made me feel like a failure, this justifying, in my head, the bullying I received at work. Maybe I was a failure. Maybe I deserved the mistreatment.
I was someone other that I had ever known. A behavior completely different from the true me or who I believed the true me to be.
All in all, the hurt I was caused and the pain I was made to feel had changed the way I dealt with reality and myself. The way I understood myself and how I reacted to people.
I noticed how snappy I was with my children. How I lacked patience, lacked alertness to my home duties, attention to my wife, and desire to even pray or seek goodness in life.
This constant barrage of stress and attack had changed the way I operated. It changed me.
I thank God for being merciful towards me, patient even, guiding me through this difficult time. My wife, also, understood my problematic reactions even though I could not verbalize them at the time. Another executive branch member came to my rescue to restitute a form or another of decorum, work place respect, and basic human decency in our work place.
With time I came to understand that the pain I was feeling, the hurt, the mistreatment that was directed towards me was not something intentional or natural to the individual responsible for it.
In fact, the person who was hurting me, was also hurt in the past by someone else.
The truism that hurt people hurt people serves us a wholesome reminder that our behaviors are a sign of pain and unresolved hurt in our own lives.
I’ve grown up in environments and settings where young boys and girls were getting into constant fist fights, destroying their bodies with drugs, and living with a promiscuous lifestyle only attained by veteran sex workers.
Young people. Adolescents, teenagers, and young adults. Slaves to hurt they suffered in the past. And I know this because I am still friends with some of them today.
So many of us are living with the pain of hurt and offense that it has changed the way we live and operate.
Erwin W. Lutzer wrote a heartwrenching book called When You’ve Been Wronged: Moving from Bitterness to Forgivness that lays out the cycle of offenses.
He states that individuals who are hurt carry a bag of pain with them as a result of these offenses:
- Broken promises
- Broken confidence
- Personal rejection
- False accusation
And people who carry this bag around their waste, over their shoulders, or buried in their heart tend to be blind to their own behaviors when they are offending others. They become blind to the hurt they cause and become slaves to that willful ignorance. They exhibit these traits:
- Walled in by bitterness
- Blind to personal faults
- Seek vengeance
- Bent on destruction
- Given to idolatry
You can see how the situation is cyclical. Someone breaks a promise and we hide behind walls of hurt and bitterness.
Someone destroys our confidence and we become blind to our own mistakes.
We’re rejected and we want nothing more than vengeance and reckoning.
We’re falsely accused therefore we want to destroy someones character, maybe even their life.
We’re abused and if that abuse goes unresolved, goes without restitution, without justice, without correction then we give in to worshipping our pain and hurt.
We create a god out of our pain and worship it throughout our day. We dream of it and it chases us though our nightmares. We’re slaves to the hurt we have suffered and we are blinded by the hurt we cause others.
Friends, this ought not be.
Again, I’m grateful for those around me who strengthened me, admonished me, encouraged me to seek restitution. By God’s grace I did. By God’s grace I was able to look this coworker, a victim of someone else, and forgive the wrongs done to me.
We fail to realize that so many people are hurt and the pain they cause others they are blind to. They’re unaware because they have built walls, barriers, monuments of hatred, fear, paranoia, and insecurity to protect them from the reality of past hurt.
Until we’re able to understand this we will repeat this cycle until we reach the grave.
And it is true, as Erwin Lutzer writes in his book on When You’ve Been Wronged that reconciliation may not always be an accomplishable goal with the offending party but we may come to terms with ourselves.
We can be reconciled with ourselves so as not to become victimizers, perpetrators of offenses and bullies in our own lives.
We can halt this cycle of hurt by understanding that we can forgive, not necessarily forget but forgive continually, daily, seasonally, and so that we can move on.
This effort, though not an easy one, is doable.
Believe me. I’m living it right now.
When we’re torn between hatred for someone and forgiving them, we’re stuck in a arena where we are given two choices: wield a sword or conduct an orchestra.
We will either become gladiators who live and die by the sword or we can use our pain by transforming it into a conductors wand to lead an orchestra in tempo, accents, volume and stillness of time.
Instead of recreating a bloody death scene we can conduct a masterpiece worthy of mention for generations to come.
Forgiveness gives us that much power.
As it is true that hurt people hurt people we also know that healed people heal other people.
So here are the questions.
Are you hurt? Have you been hurt? How is that pain, that event, that person affecting your life today?
Perhaps they’re no longer around. Maybe that person was a coworker and the two of you no longer work together. Perhaps that person was a lover who is now an ex-lover. Perhaps a family member you no longer communicate with.
Perhaps they’re in a different country, perhaps in prison or far worse, perhaps they’re dead and beyond the reach of reconciliation but they are not beyond the reach of your forgiveness.
Forgiveness liberates the heart from the desire and the need to re-offend.
It sounds almost impossible to forgive someone deserving of retribution, say, even violence and execution, but we have a justice system for that and if the individual evaded justice here on earth rest assured that they will not evade ultimate Justice beyond the grave.
Forgiveness is a power you and I are able to wield to restore, renew, redeem, deliver, and heal.
Maybe today is the day you can start, yes, start to heal.
You deserve to heal and the people around you need the love you have inside, not the hurt.
Let’s break the cycle of pain and reinstate a cycle of wholesome healing and love.
I hope this post finds you well and I hope you stay well.
You are more than your pain. You are more than that bully. You are more than that offense, that hurt, that pain, that memory and that event. You are intrinsically of far more worth and value than any pain or hurt someone has caused you.
You are loved and you can give love. That’s a cycle we can comfortably promote.
God knows our world needs it.
Godspeed reader. Godspeed cycle breaker.
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” – Matthew 6:12