I believe that in many cases the people in pain are the people that cause pain
We seem to understand that people in physical pain are more likely to be crabby or cranky but we struggle to draw the same connections for people in emotional pain.
Let me try to provide an example: A woman is in an unhappy marriage. Her husband virtually ignores her and when he does talk to her he calls her an idiot and she calls him lazy. This has been their life for years. Now this woman is at the grocery store and you accidentally bump her cart and her immediate/reactive response is to loudly exclaim “You idiot! Watch where you’re going!”
Of course, that’s her reaction, she is in a lot of emotional pain, her home life is sad and lonely, and just because she’s at the grocery store does not mean she feels better. Does that mean it’s okay that she reacts this way, no it does not.
But, you don’t know any of that. All you know is that this mean lady just lost her mind on you in public, for no good reason. Maybe, now you’re embarrassed or angry or frustrated or all of the above at the same time. All you know, is this does not feel good.
You have many choices as to how to respond:
1) Snap back because she can’t talk to you that way!
2) Ignore her and move along
3) Smile, say you’re sorry, and move along.
This is where hurt people, hurt people can be stopped.
If you choose option 1 you are also being reactive and this will likely leave you in a pretty bad mood. And this bad mood may lead you to snap at someone in your own life or just carry around the negative feelings from the incident.
If you choose option 2 you ignore the problem and it may leave you with residual resentment as you walk around the store thinking about how upsetting that incident was for you. Because, of course it is upsetting to get yelled at in public.
If you choose option 3 you are saying you did accidentally bump into someone and even though you did not intend to upset her, maybe you did, so saying you’re sorry is not a sign of weakness or acceptance, it is simply acknowledging that her feelings were hurt. You smile because it is the smallest act of kindness and an easy way to reduce tension in an angry situation, and then you move along. This step will probably help you move past the incident rather quickly and you may feel better because it demonstrates compassion and compassion makes us healthier and happier.
This is not to say how this woman handled herself was acceptable. That’s not the point. You are only ever responsible for your actions.
And, maybe the hurt stops there. At least with you it does.
I believe that misery not only loves company but loves perpetuating misery. If you are willing to step out of the situation and meet misery with kindness and compassion it can be transformative for all involved.
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
― Mother Teresa
Compassion is a big, huge deal for me so that will be at the heart of much of the writing you find here.