I once heard the phrase, “Hurting people hurt people.”
Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? Someone who is consistently snarky isn’t a happy, fulfilled person. Instead, he is wearing his snarkiness cape because he doesn’t know what else to do. He’s in pain, and snarkiness is the only way to protect himself.
Or someone who is consistently speaking badly about others is often doing that to make herself feel better about herself. She has her gossipy cape on to protect her from looking at her own life.
(I actually have an appreciation for the snarky people and gossipy people in my life. Because they are really teaching me to practice patience and grace.)
So back to my original thought, though: if hurting people hurt people, is it possible that the antithesis of that statement may also be true?
I was in a situation recently where I was having a conversation with three women who are casual acquaintances. One of them revealed quite courageously to us that she was going through a difficult time. She found out her husband had been cheating on her.
She said, “I told him he had to get his life together. And we had a long conversation last night over text. He said he was willing to do whatever it takes. I know he is, because he can’t survive without me. And he’s just a mess right now. He has anger management issues and even pushed me the other day in anger. But I finally put my foot down and told him he can’t come home until he agrees to get help.”
And then the other women in the conversation were nodding their heads in agreement, making “you go girl!” statements and telling her how strong she was.
I couldn’t get a “you go, girl” statement out, because my feelings weren’t feeling very go girlish. I felt the strangest mix of guilt and empathy and shame at the same time. Because I used to be that woman. Her story sounded like mine. My tears were slowly filling up my eyeballs and I was trying hard not to blink so they wouldn’t fall, but I finally had to blink.
And so they fell.
And someone noticed and asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m okay,” I said. “I’m just processing everything you said. You said a lot, my dear. You really are going through a hard time. How are you?”
But she didn’t hear my words at first and she kept talking about her husband and how he was “messed up.”
“Okay,” I said. “But how are you?”
And she didn’t know how to answer me, really, because she was just in survival mode.
Everyone was suddenly looking at me again, since tears were still coming down from my eyes. So I said, “I’m really sad for you right now. I know I don’t know you well, and I am trying to be really careful to not ‘project’ my past onto your present. I need to say, though, that it’s not okay for your husband to push you. Like that’s really not okay,” I said, as my tears kept flowing.
She nodded. And I said, “And you deserve so much happiness. You deserve peace.”
I started to tell her snippets of my story.
She sat down. She listened. She looked at me like this emoji 😳 and this emoji 😧 and this emoji 😪.
I have had darkness in my life. And I really don’t like to walk around thinking and talking about it, because I am SO happy most of the time. And I am SO grateful that my life is good.
But if my darkness and your darkness can help another person to heal…then there is great power in that. If I embrace “the dark matter,” (as pastor Rob Bell calls it), and I join with someone else in his or her dark matter–there is actually new life in that.
If hurting people hurt people, then it makes sense to also believe that healed people can help to heal people.
Sometimes we can’t make sense of the dark matter when we are in it. But as we continue to push forward in time, our dark matter shapes us and can actually create new life.