You Do Not Get to Decide If You Inflicted Pain or Not
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
If someone tells you that you hurt them, you do not get to decide that you did not. It is a difficult thing to take a few steps back and admit that your actions have caused harm to someone you care about.
In life, there are quite a few absolutes, and one of the most difficult ones to accept is pain.
Although physical pain causes its own kinds of scars and injuries, mental and emotional pain is inflicted quite often by us and the ones we love. It is a hard reality that we must face daily, and it is a humbling act to take a step back and acknowledge the pain we inflict on others.
Unfortunately, as humans, we are hardwired to respond one of two ways to difficult situations. We either fight for ourselves, defending our honor and character by whatever means necessary, or we run away, avoiding conflict at all costs and deflecting conversations away from the reality of facing a demon we are ashamed of.
This is why it is incredibly important for us to learn how to turn these responses off, and instead focus on the problem before us.
The first step in this wise approach is to accept that you hurt someone you love. Like many first steps in life, this is the hurdle that is often most difficult to achieve. Our pride usually gets in the way and prevents us from accepting the hurt as well. We begin to discredit the accuser, and we justify our behavior.
Instead, just take a deep breath and accept it. At the end of the day, it is not our choice if we hurt someone or not, and we need to be okay with that reality.
The next step requires you to listen to the person you hurt. Listening does not mean interrupting, trying to explain, or anticipating your response. It means to turn yourself off for a moment and let the accuser have the floor, truly embracing their every word, and trying your best to understand how and why they were hurt through empathetic means.
This is how you receive valuable information that will help you grow and mature in the long term. The greatest wisdom we tend to absorb is the kind we learn from our greatest mistakes, and hurting the people we love should be recognized as such.
Finally, the last thing you must do is repeat back what was just said in order to communicate that a) you really were listening and trying to understand and b) you value the relationship. Often times people do irreparable damage by neglecting this phase and thinking they understand the fullness of the situation when they actually do not.
Repeating back provides clarity to the situation and allows the person you hurt to clear any confusion if necessary, and it shows that you are participating in the conversation even though you are not the primary speaker.
Because at the end of the day, the relationships that matter the most in our lives are with the ones that we love wholeheartedly, and these are the relationships that we will absolutely cause and receive the most pain. For as the old proverb says, "Where there is love, there is pain."
In order for an apology to have any real weight, the receiver genuinely needs to feel accepted, listened to, and understood. That is why it is so important to accept that you hurt them, listen to the story of their pain, and verify that you understand by repeating back what you heard.
It requires a lot from us to achieve such connection in our relationships, but if we desire to strive towards growth and healing, we need to become familiar with the art of Self-Denial and learn to turn away from the natural Fight or Flight.