They say hurting people hurt people. I’ve seen this to be true in my own life. Maybe you have too. We have all experienced unjust treatment in some form or another. Sometimes we are the recipient of that dump truck of muck and sometimes we pile it on others.
Some of the behavior we experience at the hands of another is disarming, some is mildly hurtful, while other acts against us are profoundly difficult or damaging.
For the next three weeks, as I continue the Journal Journeys with excerpts from my prayer journals, I want to take a look at how we can heal from hurt inflicted by others.
There is a myriad of reasons why one may suffer mistreatment. People may hurt others in response to their own insecurities or feelings of worthlessness. Some belittle or humiliate others to feel better about themselves. Some may hurt others in a desire to be accepted by a group or to please a crowd.
Conversely, some are imbued with self-righteousness that feeds the lie that they are superior to everyone else and therefore fit to mete out judgment. Some may hurt others out of a fear losing their position of power or authority and may manipulate them due to their need to maintain control.
Some neglect or harm others due to deep-rooted bitterness and hatred that is rotting their capacity to love. Anger, often a fear response, can cause one to lash out with harsh words and harmful behavior.
Others suffer from entitlement, ignorance, or greed. Still, others struggle amid their own inner pain or mental health issues, or have themselves been mistreated and are repeating the cycle.
We can be hurt by assumptions that aren’t based on fact, or when others believe lies or judge us based on gossip or appearances. We ourselves may be harmed by being over-sensitive, assuming a victim mentality, or failing to set clear boundaries.
There is no shortage of ways we can experience hurt at the hands of another. Our natural response to mistreatment may be to recoil in pain or shut out others for fear of further hurt. We may experience feelings of shame, worthlessness, disillusionment, anger, loss, grief, or fear. We may hurt back or grow bitter, but Jesus says something astonishing which goes against our natural impulses…
He tells us to forgive.
If anyone experienced unjust treatment it was Jesus. He understands mistreatment because he endured it in every form. Even as he hung on the cross he said of those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Even though the degree to which we suffer mistreatment may vary from person to person, the way in which we overcome it does not. If we want freedom from the pain inflicted by another, we must forgive. The idea is simple, the act is difficult, but the result is profound.
Here are the incredulous words Jesus used to instruct us how to treat those who harm us:
“…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
When I am mistreated by someone I try to remind myself that their behavior has more to say about their character than it does of mine. I also tell myself that the manner in which I respond to this treatment provides insight into my own character. Whether I stay in peace or are triggered can also act as a signal to let me know if there is work to be done.
It is natural to feel sorrow over unjust treatment and can be an indication that we are being sinned against. We may not forget the offense, but we are instructed to forgive. In fact, our freedom depends on it.
Are you struggling to forgive someone? Next week, I’ll look at some steps we can take in the forgiveness process. How can we forgive? How can we know when we’ve completely forgiven someone? How can we be free of bitterness?
Until then, I’ll leave you with this entry from my prayer journal. This entry was written during a time when I was suffering mistreatment from a person who I was working with on a particular project. I’ll let you know the outcome of our relationship next week. Suffice to say there was work to be done and I struggled hard to forgive.
Click here to hear me read the excerpt from my prayer journal on this topic and share how I am learning to forgive.
Prayer Journal Excerpt #4: Sorrow From Unjust Treatment
November 7, 2016
I need wisdom. Please help me in this situation. Please lead me as I feel like there is a struggle there and I ask you to provide insight. Please also help me to not worry about how I might be treated. Let me not get angry or bitter. Sorry that I already have. Please forgive and restore me.
Thank you for showing me that I have a pattern of taking offense. I know I can be sensitive, but I don’t want to be easily hurt or let myself feel slighted. Could you please work with me in this area so that I am stronger in my thought life when it comes to these things?