We’ve all heard the phrase, “Hurt people, hurt people.” It’s true and I’ve been on both sides of that proverbial coin. I’m sure we all have. I have a soft spot for the broken, the hurting, the marginalized…the underdog. And I guess that’s because I can identify on some level.
I tend to look for the reason people behave in ways that I don’t understand versus just assuming they’re evil and mean spirited to the core. This hasn’t always been the case. I am definitely guilty of taking bad behavior or meanness personally. I am not impervious to insults, curt responses, or the occasional tongue lashing. It’s just that I’ve come to understand that, 99% of the time, the way someone acts toward me has very little to do with me – particularly if they are being unkind.
Like I said, I am sensitive though and this practice of taking a breath before responding to someone’s ill-natured outburst? Well, it didn’t come overnight and it will always be a work in progress. Part of that process is recalling moments where I’ve been the one who has been hurting and therefore hurt others. Let me tell you something friends, this was not a very fun exercise.
I have been doing some life accounting. Some crunching of the ol’ emotional numbers. It’s not a pretty sight. I’ve pulled away, verbally round-housed, passive aggressively pouted, displaced blame, and thrown all out temper tantrums – simply to protect myself from having to reveal the truth. And the truth is, I was in pain. There was a root cause to all my impropriety but it wasn’t what I thought it was.
Sometimes, I felt stuck in an unhappy relationship. Other times, it felt like I had no control over my life. Occasionally, I was just sad and missed my mommy. Ok, look – I don’t think I’ve used the word “mommy” since I was a baby but the point is – you get the point. All of those emotions were valid. They were real and I must have felt them deeply. But I never articulated that or addressed it in a healthy and productive way. I buried the lead. I created an alternate reality that was just a little easier to digest on a daily basis. In other words, I hurt people unintentionally so that I could distract them from uncovering what was really wrong with me. I was holding on by a thread.
What I’d like to discuss in this post, however, is how we can flip this whole dynamic around. Instead of “hurt people, hurting people,” what if we took on the perspective that “helped people, help people”? Let me tell you how I came to this notion. After years of behaving the way I described above, it should come as no surprise to you that I found myself in solitude – forced to confront and learn how to deal with all the pain that got me in that situation in the first place.
It was a pretty low and lonely existence for a while. I saw a therapist and that helped quite a bit (let’s all just go ahead and agree to normalize seeking outside opinions when we’re on the down and out, ok?). It helped but it didn’t quite cause the course correction that was necessary in my life for healing. Then one day I started thinking about how, if I hurt so much and needed so much “help”, there were probably others out there that needed that same support. And so I started reaching out. I started offering my experience(s) as a sort of lessons learned. I mentored, I volunteered, I talked over the issues that others in my life were facing and offered them some resources and suggestions to help them dig out of difficult situations.
And what happened almost immediately? The universe gave all of that support back to me in spades. I learned that I had a tribe all along – I just hadn’t fully tapped into it. For every job I helped someone else get, doors opened for me along the way as well. For every hobby that I invested time into, I found myself more fulfilled and therefore more energetic and open to forging new relationships and nurturing the ones I already had. Sometimes that meant I had to revive them from the dead but the effort paid off.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Jamie Kern Lima? If not and you are at all interested in forging your path from the hurting to the helper, you should really check out her book “Believe It“. I have the audible version – which she narrates – and it’s amazing. Chapter fourteen is most pertinent for this topic.
When it comes to flipping the script from “hurt people, hurt people” to “helped people, help people” you have to start with putting out into the world exactly those things that you’re looking for. So, here are a few ways to do just that. (Where I have cribbed from Ms. Lima, I will give credit, I promise.)
- Believe in Giving What you Need (this is the actual chapter title from her book so, credit to Jamie Kern Lima).
- What you put out into the world, you get back. It’s just that simple. If you need something, you have to give that something away to get it in return. It seems counterintuitive but I don’t know another way of explaining it. The universe just knows what you’re putting out there and it will give it right back to you. Maybe it won’t be overnight, but it WILL happen. So, when you’re considering what to give out, choose smartly.
- Focus on helping others.
- Choose to help the people you can, any time you can. When you do that, you will find that it not only makes you feel satisfied emotionally but that you will come to learn more about yourself and what you need in the moments where you’re spending time addressing other people’s needs.
- Go out of your way to emphasize good acts, good people, and good moments.
- If the gas station attendant has an extraordinary smile, tell them. If you adore the crinkles by your husband’s eyes, let him know. If a stranger has done something that you think is profound, find a way to deliver an accolade…even if it seems hard or awkward. I promise the gesture will be appreciated and your inner light will shine because you are shining on someone else.
The thing is, and I’m sorry if I’m beating you over the head with it by now, whatever it is that you are so desperately searching for, you have an emotional doppelganger out there. And honestly, you don’t have to look very far to find someone who could use the gift of your light and love. EVERYONE needs something and some people need it more than you or I – even when we think we are at the lowest of lows. In those moments, sometimes the ONLY way out is to find someone who needs our help. It will reinforce our own value to highlight the value of someone else.
So, that’s what I have for you friends. Helped people, help people. Give to get. Love to heal.
Be good to each other,