Hurt People Hurt People

It’s not an excuse or a justification.

It’s simply a fact.

As a creator of fiction, one of my jobs is to make a story make sense.

At times I’m sure this is my primary motivation for writing: to have a place where stories make sense. As in, now.

Villains aren’t just evil to make life difficult for the main character; that’s too narrow a purpose. That’s living for someone else, and far too selfless for the best villains as I imagine them.

~ ~ ~

Antagonist is a more broadly applicable word than villain.

Most of us will not encounter a terrifying villain, in the same way that most of us will not change the world in any masses-remembered way.

I’m just talking statistics here. How many people do you remember of the billions that have come before?

It’s a math thing, not a despair thing.

And many, many people face villains the way that many people make a difference in a way known only to few.

How widely something is known does not change the power or significance of what we experience.

Antagonists may be out specifically to hurt us, for reasons of their own, or they may simply be thinking of themselves, pursuing their own goals, and we get run over in the process.

I highly doubt the individual who stole my iPhone last week heard my nutrition talk, took personal offense at my content or my speaking style and decided to take my phone to spite me.

Far more likely is the scenario when s/he saw the cracked thing in its dirty case, unattended, and decided it was worth taking.

Really it had nothing to do with me, personally, but it has seriously disrupted my life, and disappointed me (in no small measure because it was taken at a gathering of Christians).

Yes we’re allowed to be disappointed. That we’re warned doesn’t mean our feelings and reactions are tied.

What we’re left with is how we will respond to the hurt that comes into our lives.

Because if we’ve been hurt, we have hurt other people.

This is really hard to think about when we’ve been hurt really badly.

We see and feel our own hurt, and depending on many things, our own hurt can be big enough that it fills up all our available vision.

We might not see what we are doing to others, and what’s even sadder, we might not care.

The reason I call this even sadder is that this attitude (I’ve been hurt so much I shouldn’t have to be careful.) frequently drives the next iteration of wounding.

The fact is, we’re all hurt. And that ties us to the truth that we have hurt others.  May still be in the process of hurting others.

And ignoring this reality won’t make it go away.

Two responses I see are necessary: awareness and humility.

  • Awareness:
    • Acknowledge the hurt. Seek healing. Even if a broken wrist heals without medical care, even if you learn how to use it again, misshapen and compensating for its weakness, it will never be as effective as the same injury, rightly-tended.
    • Look for patterns. We are creatures of habit, and horrid as it may sound, many, many people continue to re-expose themselves to the same wound-inducing scenarios that they both grieve and seek healing of.
      • Avoid those who hurt you, if you can. If you can’t, diligently seek counsel as to how you may protect yourself. Think of this in terms of sun-exposure. We can’t (usually) choose to stay out of the sun (and may not want to completely), but if we do not apply some sort of protection (clothing, hats, sun screen) we will be burned over and over again, all the while preparing our cells for cancer. It’s not overstating the case to say toxic relationships are the same.
    • Learn boundaries– where you end and where your responsibilities end. Sometimes our healing is delayed by the plain weariness of trying to carry too much, and we need to learn what we ought to lay down.
    • Open your eyes to your own power to hurt. That you yourself have been wounded does not make you less-likely to injure someone else. In a twisted way it can make you more cunning to hurt, because many survivors know that last thread their antagonist failed to snap, and it’s what we cling to. Later, when anger comes, and our primal desire to hurt activates, we know right were to start, because it’s where we have crouched for so long.
  • Humility: Folded in tightly with Awareness:
    • You have been hurt. Yes, you survived, and even thrived (maybe); but to say you escaped unscathed is denial.
      • Assume the starting place of brokenness; not as a badge of honor, a recruiting flag for allies, or fortress to justify from, but as a mutual reality you share with all humanity.
    • Hurt is an opportunity for connection, but many use it as a reason for isolation. Acknowledging brokenness means acknowledging imperfection and disappointment; showing weakness.
      • For many wounded people showing weakness is an invitation to attack, so wisdom is required as you decide how to share the fruits of your woundedness.
      • That said, pride in our illusion of having it all together will prevent connection, even where it would be good.
    • Where we have wounded others, we need to repent and make restitution where possible. We need to admit we are wrong and do what we can to aid the healing of those we have hurt.
      • Visualize, if will, a dam that holds back a great mass of water that is a capacity to hurt. Your actions chiseled a flaw into the stonework. Other wounders have attacked the dam as well.  Maybe a trickle has begun to seep out and affect the smallest and nearest.

Stick your finger in the dike. It is not forever, and it is not meant for you to do alone, but the sooner life and truth enters a situation, the less damage will need to be repaired.

When I craft antagonists, I have to know why they do what they do.

It may be a very selfish reason. It may be illogical. But it makes sense to them. From their point of view this was the best way to do or get what they feel they need.

Most people in our lives are not genuinely wicked. Not in the sense that they are intent to destroy us. They are merely broken, prideful, selfish people very similar to us who need a savior just as much.

The hurt they cause is real, and needs tending, but I continue circling back to this because motivation matters.

Proverbs phrases it this way:

People don’t despise the thief if he steals
to satisfy himself when he is hungry.

We understand the basic need of satisfying hunger. To some degree we have all experienced it.

But the next verse is important to keep connected:

Still, if caught, he must pay seven times as much;
he must give up all the wealth in his house.

God’s world is one build on the concept of sowing and reaping. There are consequences for all we do, good or bad, and that, as much as anything motivates my desire to grow whole and speak healing.

6 thoughts on “Hurt People Hurt People

  1. This post was very helpful to me in several ways. One of which being I’m pondering writing a zombie apocalypse story for Nanowrimo, and I needed motivation for the bad guys. (Not the zombies.) Now I have much food for thought! Thanks!

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