“Hurt People, hurt people.”

I was 16 when I heard this from a co-worker at the supermarket where I worked. He was clearly wise beyond his years (fun fact: he now works in the chruch.) Repeating it again, I got over the hurdle of double words. But it has taken another 16 years to really understand what it means.

We’re taught bad people do bad things. That wrong and right are two different sides of the fence. That outcome and intent are one of the same. That there’s no grey area in between. That’s not true. You see, when we follow the trail from our wounds to the actions of another person, we many find there’s more to consider – that there’s more to the story. That there’s something bigger than our hurt: theirs. Because hurt people, hurt people.

Unresolved trauma and deep-rooted issues manifest in so many external ways. They cloud judgement. They bring a person’s own needs to the surface so they only ask how this affects themselves; not anyone else. And those needs are about their pain, not greed or malice. This is contrary to the story that they were aiming at us. Nope. We were just caught in the crossfire.

That doesn’t lessen the sting. Or mean bad behaviour is justified. This particular perspective — while is definitely NOT always applicable — is about our healing. And doing that requires resolving our initial feelings of anger. When we feel hurt, we want to hurt back. Like the “bad people do bad things” rule, another we often live by is “an eye for an eye.” But anger and revenge rarely serves us the way we think it will. It prolongs our suffering. And at its worst, it consumes us.

Buddhism teaches that the antidote to anger is compassion. This doesn’t mean we have to extend a helping hand. But finding that heartfelt space does make unclenching our fists and letting go easier. We may not ever get answers to our many questions or understand what a person’s mindset was — but we should consider that it wasn’t hurting us. And that along the line they may have been a victim themselves — hurt by another hurt person. Again, this isn’t always the case. It’s just something to consider.

If you’ve hurt someone in any capacity — regardless of your intent — it’s important to still take responsibility. Don’t just say sorry, show it. First, put yourself in their shoes and reflect their own feelings back to them. Let them feel seen, heard and validated. Next, make a commitment to resolving your core issue that manifested. This shows how significant hurting them was to you, and it also provides some assurance that they can feel safe in the future.

Of course, every situation is unique. I don’t know all the details of yours. I’m just sharing something I also shared with a close friend recently after she got her heart shattered. This is also a reminder for us all that if we don’t practice self-awareness and handle our hurt, we can hurt other people, including those we care about, with it.

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