We cannot go through life without being hurt and disappointed. Jesus said, “…It is impossible but that offences will come”. (Luke 17:1)
It is foolish to think we will never be offended – or offend others. Because our hearts have a natural propensity to be selfish and do wrong there will be times that we wound people, even those we love the most. Here is a brief sampling of ways we are disappointed by people – and how we disappoint others.
Words hurt us. The Bible states, “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword…”(Proverbs 12:18) Sometimes our words are cutting. Perhaps a parent said, “You’re so stupid” in a moment of anger. Maybe someone you care deeply about told you, “I hope I never see you again”. When someone significant says, “You are a failure”, those words are burned in our mind. They hurt us more than we realize.
Neglect can wound us. Some children have been neglected by their parents in meaningful events. Gordon MacDonald writes about the “absent father” in his book “The Effective Father” and how much damage he does to his children.
As a coach I usually had a couple of guys who had no one there to watch them play. Just today I received an unexpected call from one one of these young men. Today he is in his late 20’s and lives in another state. He said, “Mr. Johnson, I was just driving along and thinking about you and wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you. You were like a father to me and helped me more than you will ever know”. Kids need parents – or someone – to believe in them and to affirm them lest they grow into angry and bitter adults.
Too, aging parents can be neglected by their children. They are lonely and yearn for conversation. Their children for whom they sacrificed greatly are too busy to spend time with them. It hurts deeply.
Years ago I was visited a man that had brain damage and was in a long-term care facility. Over time I noticed the same people outside by the door in rocking chairs and I got to know them. They told me they were waiting on their children to visit them. I asked one of the nurses about them and she sadly told me, “They sit out there every day waiting and for most of them no one ever comes to see them”.
Betrayal leaves a mark on the heart that is deep. When someone you have trusted in has turned on you it is easy to become cynical and become distant to all people, refusing to ever get close again. John LeCarre wrote, “Betrayal can only happen if you love”. The people you love the most hurt you the most.
The great preacher, Dr. J. Harold Smith, said the most difficult experience he had ever gone through was being betrayed by a friend. Years after the fact he still remembered the hurt.
Those that have been sexually abused are wounded most of all. Typically it is from someone they knew and was trusted in the family. Incest is not talked about in polite company, but it is very real. Those hurts are buried so deep that usually no one ever discovers the horror they experienced.
Threats have been made by the perpetrator if they ever tell what happened…Satan haunts the innocent victim with a false sense of shame and guilt…there is a feeling of being alone and the wound seems to be ever present.
You would be shocked at how often this comes up in my counseling. Many times the spouse is unaware of the fact. When they discover it they understand why there were some challenges in the marriage.
Some have been emotionally abused. Love, affirmation or affection was never communicated. Failures were regularly pointed out rather than successes celebrated. The child grew up never knowing they were valued by their parents. The bar of acceptance was continually elevated – in the name of helping the child to be a success one day. This results in hurt.
Divorce is another source of pain. One parent tries to drive a wedge between the other parent and the children. Your former spouse continues to try and hurt you. Children of divorced parents are often angry that their home has been torn apart. They grow up with bruised hearts even as adults.
Being treated unfairly is a cause of hurt. Someone gets a promotion and pay raise when you deserved it more. Your contributions are not recognized or valued as much as others on the job. Parents showing favoritism to one child over another. It hurts and leads to bitterness.
When someone in whom you had confidence lies to you it is painful. Trust is the glue of relationships and it is impossible to be close where there is a lack of trust. The unraveling of your relationship starts when you do not believe in someone. It results in sorrow and pain.
Perhaps someone borrowed money from you and never repaid it. Once someone borrowed a good amount of money from my grandmother and never contacted her again about paying it back. They desperately needed the money and she was glad to help, but she was hurt deeply that a friend would do that to her.
Worse, a friend or family member may have brazenly stolen something from you. Sometimes children steal from their parents and think they don’t know about it. The parents are devastated by it. I know of a step-father that was stealing money from his child to support his drug habit. It resulted in a divorce. He took advantage of the people he should have protected and loved. They were hurt for years over what had happened.
All of us have been deeply wounded and hurt. And all of us have deeply wounded and hurt other people. The nature of the wound is different, but it is still real. Sometimes they are so deep that they are carried for years, even a lifetime. And they influence our relationships more than we ever know.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be so. God gives us a solution to being held captive to these hurts. We cannot help being hurt, but with God’s comfort and strength we can overcome these arrows that have pierced our hearts. To do so we must get to the heart of the problem and identify it.
The root cause of lasting hurt is bitterness. When a disappointment has been nursed and rehearsed it will develop into bitterness. Bitterness is not so much hatred, but harbored hurt. Unfulfilled expectations leads to disappointment which leads to hurt which leads to resentment. It is a destructive cycle of pain that feeds itself.
If not dealt with the bitterness turns to a desire to see the person that wounded you be hurt, too. I’ve been there in my own life – and it’s a dead end. It will rob you of joy and even affect your health. Someone said, “Being bitter at a person or an institution is like drinking poison and hoping your enemies will die”.
In the next few posts I’ll deal with how we are to deal with personal hurts. We all have them. If we fail to resolve our past (and present) wounds we will continue the cycle and hurt others – usually not having any idea we are doing so.
Bitter people rarely know they are bitter because they call it by other names – hurt, disappointment, frustrated. I hope for someone these will heal the hurt in your heart and remove the sting that is poisoning your attitude, stealing your joy, and destroying your relationships.