Monday, February 15, 2016

What to Do When Hurting People Hurt You

You've heard the saying, "burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me." I've never said that or believed in that; however, I think I'm coming to sympathize with where it comes from.

This weekend someone hurt me badly, and probably permanently, with their words. Angry, accusing, and unfair words hurt, y'all---they kill. In fact, I think some words hurt more than actions. Especially written words, because you know they've been meditated over---read and reread---and then a conscious choice has been made to seal up that letter or to send that email.

Jesus told us to forgive seventy times seven times. How can this mesh with the "burn me" phrase above? There are two things I have learned to do with people who hurt me: speak truth and set boundaries.

Before I go on, let me be clear that I'm not talking about the wishy-washy fair-weather friend or the creep who cut you off at the Krispy Kreme---those kinds of conflicts are easily managed and don't stick to your bones too long. I'm talking about those you have a deeper, heart relationship with: long-time friends, parents and grandparents, adult children, adult siblings, ex-spouses.

So how do I handle situations where those I love have hurt me deeply? First, I speak truth. Conflict and negativity are unavoidable consequences of sin, but the best way to combat the enemy of our souls who wants to keep us in that place of negativity is to use words that are true.

  • Begin by owning your responsibility in the matter. Do what you can to offer resolution and ask for forgiveness where needed. 
  • So much of conflict resolution has to do with what is going on inside of you. You can't make someone forgive you, see your point of view, or change theirs. You've got to make sure you've done everything God is requiring of you in the situation---mostly for your own peace and so you can move forward without regret.
  • Remember the things you've been forgiven for. Oftentimes, the conflict you're in now is the same conflict you've been in before. Is the person bringing up things from the past that you've already worked out and resolved? Is the person bringing up your own sin that you know God has already forgiven you for? You took that trash out long ago. Don't let someone bring it back in.
  • Remember the things you are not responsible for. You are not responsible for your parents' divorce, your sibling's failure, your adult child's finances, or your ex-spouse's relationships with others. You are not responsible for making someone else's life miserable. You're not. People choose to be miserable. Don't be one of them.
When you are speaking truth, either to the person or just to yourself, (you'll need to speak it to yourself way more than you will to anyone else) you'll find that you're able to think clearly enough to set proper boundaries. These will look different for each person and situation---and they'll likely change over time as you heal and as your life changes. Here are a few things to know about setting boundaries:
  • Setting boundaries is basically saying, here is a line we won't cross. It doesn't always have to be a negative thing. For instance, my brother and I disagree on many things. We both have similar moral codes, but sometimes we have different reactions to important issues. We love to discuss and debate for hours, but we've set up a boundary---we won't fight. We love each other too much to ever let those disagreements become personal.
  • Sometimes boundaries need to be set concerning time, influence, or even what topics can be discussed. Do what you can to maintain a peaceful relationship, so far as it depends on you. 
  • Learn to say, no.
  • Prepare for a change in your extended family dynamic or circle of friends by keeping a humble heart. Often, it's the people we are closest to that can be the most toxic in our own walk with God. Allowing angry, bitter, and hurting people to have a spiritual influence in our lives will not bring us closer to the Lord. We can love them from a distance, but we must be careful not to adopt a haughty attitude. Self-righteousness is not self-preservation.
  • Sometimes boundaries are going to be permanent. This is where both the "seventy times seven" and "burn me" phrases come into play. When I was a new wife and new Christian, one of the verses that always bugged me was Matthew 10:37 where Jesus tells us that anyone who loves his parents, children, etc. more than Him is not worthy of Him. The basic gist here is not that Christ is trying to separate us from the family we were born into, but that we need to count the cost of following Him. We should be willing to forgive with reckless abandon. Holding onto hurt hurts you more than it hurts the other person. However, forgiveness doesn't always mean a happy reconciliation. Sometimes we do have to let go for good. How do you know if it's time? Talk to God about it. A lot. You'll know it's right when he gives you unexplainable peace in your heart.
It's true that hurting people hurt others. Just prior to the situation I'm currently experiencing, I hurt someone I love with words that should have been left unsaid. My brother gave me some good advice a couple nights ago when he said we should always think about whether or not something needs to be said before saying it. Is it going to accomplish anything positive? Is it going to move you forward toward a closer relationship with this person and with Christ? If not, be careful to really think and pray it through before making a decision. Let us be so careful not to hurt one another with our words. Let it begin with me.


  1. Sarah, it is hard to believe anyone would deliberately hurt you or you them. I understand what you are saying very well. I definitely am one to speak before I think and have paid for it. I try now to keep my mouth shut but it is not easy. You said it all very well today. Take care as time takes care of a lot things.

  2. Good words for those who are hurting or have hurt someone. I am glad you have god with you. He never lets you down!

  3. This was so timely for me. Last week was a rough one because of this very thing. I'm so happy I came across this article! Thank you!

  4. This was so timely for me. Last week was a rough one because of this very thing. I'm so happy I came across this article! Thank you!

  5. I am sorry that you are having to deal with this. We are familiar with having to set boundaries with those who continually hurt others and refuse to change.

  6. Dear Sarah!! Oh, I am SO sorry you were hurt so deeply! May the God of all comfort bless you and hold you extra close. I am praying for you, dear friend.

  7. I read somewhere of a way to help get over pain from being hurt by someone. It said to write a letter to the person who hurt you and in it to take ownership in the wrongs you committed in the relationship and then to ask forgiveness before you start on their wrongs. I have used this a few times with people who hurt me beyond repair. It made me feel that I could let go of the anger and move forward. It helped me to see if the relationship was something I wanted to mend or to end. I pray that you find peace with those who have wronged you and those you have wronged.

  8. My dear Sarah, what a post! I was so sad to learn that you were deeply hurt... Only God can heal and by your words it's apparent that you are allowing our precious Heavenly Father to do a mighty work in you. You are quite the testimony, dear one. I was greatly encouraged by your words and your podcast. Thank you so much for sharing with Roses of Inspiration and may you continue to lean upon the Lord for strength and comfort. Hugs and blessings to you!


  9. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop

  10. Sarah your podcast was very good. I am sorry you were hurt by another's words. Know in your heart that what you do is between you and the Father. Thanks for joining Home Sweet Home!


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Mrs. Sarah Coller

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