Today’s post is brought to you by Boundaries, the book I started this week and that you’re therefore stuck with for the next several posts. Enjoy, and welcome to November!
Have you ever been hurt?
Your answer to that is without a doubt “Yes,” but there are many different ways of taking it. Someone may say yes — I broke my arm when I was 10. Somebody else might say yes — my partner was unfaithful. Hurt runs the gamut from minor to major, from physical to emotional, from harmful to beneficial.
Have you ever dislocated a joint? Your arm is a-floppin’ around out of socket, can’t do anything, and is in immense pain. Then they set it. I’ve never experienced this, but I take it from action movies that it’s about the most grueling pain ever. Sylvester Stallone can probably shrug it off but most of the rest of us can’t.
How about dental work? When the dentist has to drill out that cavity, it sure hurts. Of course, the purpose is to prevent your tooth from rotting out and causing the Black Plague epidemic in your mouth. On the flip side, did the candy that caused the cavity hurt when you ate it? Nope, it felt pretty good, didn’t it? But it sure wasn’t what you actually needed.
Now, have you ever been told your attitude was poor? Maybe you’ve been told that the way you’re handling something in your life is immature or self-destructive.
When dealing with our own hurts as well as with our ability to inflict hurt upon others, we need to separate temporary hurt for the eventual good from hurt for the sake of hurt. In other words, we need to separate hurt from harm. Hurt is a fleeting feeling, something short-lived and ephemeral. Harm is a long-term consequence that can change your life.
When you’re feeling hurt, especially when it’s an emotional or relational hurt inflicted by a friend or loved person, you should investigate whether the hurt was meant in love, for your eventual benefit, or for your harm. If someone is willing to put the truth on the table, they’re willing to sacrifice your opinion of them in the moment for your benefit later on. That’s a mature action. That’s a true friend. Listen to them. If someone hurt you with the sole intention to harm, then they’re petty and childish, and shouldn’t have any control over your emotions or your future. Ignore them. Develop the personal maturity to recognize the difference.
Sometimes being told that something is your fault helps to remind you that you’re in control. Maybe you screwed up. That’s okay, if you had the power to get here, you have the power to get out.
A good friend in high school once grabbed me by the collar, threw me against a wall, and told me he loved me, but my attitude lately had sucked. What were my options in that moment? I could fight back… who was he to tell me off? Or I could ignore him… who cares what he thinks? But this was a trusted friend, and I knew he had my best interests in mind. In light of that truth, I had no option but to investigate my attitude. He was right. It sucked. And he was willing to risk hurting me and our connection in order to benefit my future. These are the kinds of people we need to associate with. Luckily I got to return the favor to him (and probably back and forth several times over the course of our friendship). Having accountability with your friends, coworkers, and romantic partners is key in good relationships and in developing yourself.
So, when dealing with friends, peers, people in general, whether you’re the hurtee or the hurter, remember to be aware of the difference between hurt and harm. It might not happen exactly in the moment of conflict, right when the doctor pops your arm back in socket or drills your cavity, but remember that sometimes hurt can hurt so good.