We have all had the experience of having our feelings hurt from the actions of others. This is part of the human experience. It is normal when this happens to blame the other person for our pain because they just did something hurtful. (I’m talking about emotional pain, not physical.) But I want to look a little deeper at what causes the pain.
Let’s say that a 3 year old child says, “You remind me of a starfish” – what would be your response? Would you be hurt or offended? You would probable smile, maybe chuckle a little and see this as amusing. Now let’s say someone you know says something like this to you, “You are the biggest jerk I’ve ever met!” How would you respond to that? This isn’t so amusing. You could have any number of responses: anger, hurt, rage, confusion , etc. You could respond defensively and explain why you aren’t such a big jerk. You might take the offense and accuse them of something.
Why do we respond so differently to the starfish and the jerk accusation? It has to do with fear. If a child tells you that you look like a starfish, there is nothing to fear in this. You know there is no similarity between you and a starfish, no one is going to take the child seriously, it just does not matter. But if an adult calls you a jerk, somehow that does matter. Whether we know it or not, it is our fear that there could be some truth in the statement that bothers us the most. It is our own insecurity, self doubt, that causes this to be hurtful. If we had just as much confidence that we aren’t a jerk as we are that we aren’t a starfish, it wouldn’t bother us near as much. It is our fear, “What does this say about me?” that hurts us the most. We fear the judgment of others might say some deep truth about us, and it is because we fear it that it hurts. If we know the accusation says nothing about us, then it doesn’t hurt. We are more likely to act, rather than react. We can respond with curiosity, “Why do you think that?” Or we can respond with love and compassion, “I’m sorry you feel that way, is there anything I can do to help …?” There are a lot of possibilities depending on the situation. When you aren’t afraid, it is much easier to stay in control of your response, rather than letting the circumstances choose your response.
The thing we fear the most is that we don’t matter, and that we aren’t loved and accepted as we are. If the judgements of others trigger this fear, then it hurts. It hurts to feel unloved. Be sure to read my post called “Acceptance, Approval, Appreciation.” God needs to be our source for feelings of love and acceptance. When we know that we are Ok, despite our imperfections and need for improvement, then we can be at peace regardless of the judgements of others. There is nothing to fear!