Compassionate Understanding: Hurt People Hurt People


Hurt people hurt people. Yehuda Berg


Think about a time when you had a horrible headache, toothache, or other incessant throbbing pain that you had to endure through the routine of your normal day. You know that pain--where every footstep or breath pulses through the part that hurts. The way you felt clouded every interaction that day even as you tried not to let it do so. 


Recognizing this offers a deeper truth of the human condition: Many people we encounter are also suffering through their own hurt and pain--physical, mental, or emotional, real and perceived.  People may try to avoid it, but it can be difficult to ignore pain that vies for a front-row center seat for attention. Consider, too, how many people daily endure and relive traumatic events. They may have stressful work situations, or a home life that creates repetitive stress not unlike PTSD. These situations take their toll, as does the attempts to ignore them. Consequently the way people react to us never has anything to do with us, but instead has to do with their filter of pain. 


For example, consider someone who has experienced repetitive harassment, bullying, and stress at work over a long period of time. If that person changed jobs or environments, it would be understandable that they might view new coworkers or a work station with skepticism and caution, at least until they felt “safe” again. In a similar way, we use our own previous life experiences to negatively filter the way we view current situations. At least we do until we break the pattern.


We can find wisdom in the words of Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements not to take things personally. We can also work on our own patterns. When we choose to forgive or let go of past situations, we clear the path to understanding and compassion. We show others the way by breaking the cycle. This does not condone another’s past actions, and by all means advocate for your needs and boundaries. If you are in a toxic work situation, figure out what you need to make the choices to forgive, find refuge and peace in a better situation, and move on (and out of that situation). 


Most readers have reached a point where they prefer less baggage on their spiritual journey. They have decided to let go of a past story they no longer need. We owe it to ourselves to break the pattern, feel emboldened, and move into the unknown with certainty of the infinite possibilities that await us. Our courage shows others, those who suffer without these tools, that they are loved, supported, and able to choose a different path. We can, in the words of Gandhi, be the change we wish to see in the world.