I try to see the best in others, however, I’ve come to the conclusion there are some people in this world that are straight out evil. They find pleasure in hurting people or inflicting pain—maliciously and selfishly asserting their control and power at the expense of others. Just watch the news.
For the rest of us, well… we have to sort our way out of a different dilemma. There are times when even though we may have good intentions and love others deeply, you and I will inadvertently hurt people—including those we care about the most. How can I be so sure? Because we’re human.
I was four years old and I’d just found my very own pet. We owned a family dog, but it wasn’t mine. Besides, I was a bit tentative around Shanny—probably having something to do with my dad (trying to be playful) lifting me up by my feet and allowing this over excited mutt to jump and lick my face while I screamed like a banshee. Don’t worry though, it’s all good now. As you can tell… I’m over it. I digress.
My new pet’s name: Wormy. Don’t look at me like that. Sure I could have named him something more macho like Butch, Eastwood, or Hulk, but I didn’t. I found him in the garden and brought him over to the cement porch in our back yard. It was in that glorious moment I made him my pet. I loved Wormy. He was wonderful and I was fascinated. I pet him with my finger to show him how much I cared and that’s when it happened. I must have pet too hard against the cement because I tore him apart and instead of one new pet, I now had two—writhing in pain and oozing God knows what.
I didn’t mean to kill him!
He’ll never see his family again.
How could I do this?
I betrayed his trust.
Why is his body still flailing after being torn apart?!
I was devastated and cried a deep cry. I think this is how most of us feel when we hurt others unintentionally. You know, those moments we realize we affected someone’s life negatively and there’s no one else to blame. So how does one pick up the pieces and mend an unintentionally broken relationship when we’ve hurt someone we love?
- Acknowledge that we hurt that person whether we intended to or not. This is where our pride will rise up because, of course, we want to defend our intentions. I’ve done this. I don’t intentionally mean to hurt my wife or family, but sometimes I do… by the things I say, the way I say it, or what I do. Often, I’m oblivious to their hurt until they tell me. It’s at that moment I can either defend myself or acknowledge their feelings. Unintentionally hurting someone is hurting them none the less. It’s never an easy thing for me to admit because I really don’t like the version of me that hurts the people I love. But the simple fact is I do. We do. If we want to move forward in our relationships, we need to let our walls down and acknowledge the pain we’ve caused.
- Let the person you hurt know how you feel. If you honestly didn’t mean to hurt someone, then say so. Further explain that even though you didn’t intend to hurt them, you still feel horrible for doing so. They can’t read your mind and as long as you are authentic and sincere, it will be comforting for them to know we actually do care. The two halves of Wormy saw my tears and heard my intentions and heartbreak. Unfortunately, that was one relationship I severed beyond repair.
- Make things right. This is the next step that makes an apology genuine and acceptable to most people. Once they know you didn’t mean to hurt them and that you feel awful for doing so, people still want to know how will you make it right in order to repair the relationship. This could be something as simple as a loving gesture or as complex that it requires tremendous effort and time to heal. Regardless, it shows that you are interested in continuing that relationship and making it a priority. This could mean making a concerted effort to be more mindful the next time around, committing to get some professional help in an area of compulsive behavior, an offer to buy lunch and talk things through, or maybe even putting two halves of a worm in the ground for a proper burial.
Together, let’s strive to put others before ourselves and live the kind of life that heals the broken, even if we are to blame.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:1-3)
Have you ever found out that you unintentionally hurt someone? Share your story below. If it has been a beneficial read, would you consider sharing it with others on your social network?