If I posed the question, “Who in your life has hurt you?”, you might respond with, “Must I limit it to only one?” We’ve all been on the receiving end of someone’s thoughtless behavior – their anger, sarcasm, back stabbing or betrayals. We’ve been hurt by those we know and love and even some that are complete strangers and it appears that we are powerless to stop them. Some tell themselves that they don’t care if their boyfriend found someone else. After all, he’s going to regret it when he finally comes to his senses and realizes you were the best thing that ever happened to him. For those who have been profoundly wounded by someone particularly close to them, their pain runs deep and their trust has been so severely damaged that they may choose to distance themselves from anyone of the human variety in order to protect themselves from ever experiencing such heartache again.
Technically people don’t have the ability to hurt us. Our suffering occurs as a result of several factors: first, we take personal offense to what they are saying or doing. Reminding ourselves that a person’s behavior is an expression of their personal issues and has nothing at all to do with us prevents us from being offended by their actions.
Second: we all have expectations of those around us. When those expectations are not fulfilled we experience disappointment and hurt. Removal of all such demands allows us to simply experience others as they are. Acceptance of that which we cannot or should not change allows us to be more at peace with others. No demands, no disappointments, no suffering.
And finally, remembering that all emotions, including hurt, result from our thought process. Our internal dialogue (that little voice inside our head) is actually responsible for our suffering or lack thereof.
Yet even with this knowledge, it is easy to encounter those who seem to get pleasure out of hurting others. So is it possible to actually prevent people from hurting us? While I cannot offer an absolute guarantee, there is one thing many people overlook that acts as a shield to protect ourselves from being a target of someone’s bad behavior. Think for a moment of a time that you had ever contemplated hurting someone. (Yes, even us really nice people – we’ve all given it thought even if we would never act upon it.) Those who come to mind are typically those who have mistreated us, hurt someone we know and care about, committed horrific acts upon the innocent, or who are just plain mean (by our standards). We would never seek to deliberately harm those who consistently treat us and others with respect and concern. Those who are kindhearted and thoughtful win our respect and we desire only the best for them. We would rather bite our tongue than say anything offensive to them or die (figuratively speaking, of course) than inflict suffering upon them. In essence, it is harder to hurt those who are kind. Doesn’t it make sense then that the reverse is true? If we were to consistently treat all whom we encounter with the highest form of dignity, then even when they are having a bad day and misbehaving, they would do their absolute best not to impose their anger on us. And we would remain unscathed.
In the fifteen years I worked with battered and violent women, I repeatedly witnessed vicious verbal and physical attacks between staff and residents upon one another – angry, nasty, hateful women taking their issues out on one another and not giving it a second thought. And yet never once was I included in their vindictive behavior. On the contrary: I repeatedly treated all parties with dignity and respect regardless of how they were behaving. Both residents and staff alike were very protective of me and at the slightest inclination that someone might possibly mistreat me, they’d jump to my defense.
No one deserves to be hurt. But let’s be honest: it’s easier to contemplate being unkind towards someone we don’t like or someone whom we perceive to be mean. It is much harder to hurt someone who is consistently thoughtful and just plain nice. Be that person and you will protect yourself from much of the hate that abounds in this world. Kindness really is the key to a less painful existence.
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