Hurt People Hurt Others — And Remembering This Makes All The Difference

by Stacy Seltzer
A hurt girl crying

Hurt people, hurt people.

The first time someone said that to me, something inside of me clicked. It was as if so much of my past suddenly made sense. The tears, the pain, the heartbreak…it all came full circle, in a real but raw way.

I consider myself a kind and caring person. I try to help others and I am all about making people feel welcome. I can be pretty sociable, and I think that most of the people who know me today would say good things about me. Because truthfully at this age, I have myself pretty figured out.

However, if you asked a few select people from my past, they may not have the kindest things to say. The teen and early 20s version of me probably has some bad reviews floating out there.

Now I never did anything malicious, I was really just young, dumb and full of insecurity. I was the same good person back then, I simply had a stream of misunderstood feelings that made me act differently. And unfortunately, this large emotional learning curve seemed to always overshadow my better qualities.

So much of youth is trying to figure out who you are and who you are going to be. Then add in hormones, peer pressure, and sexuality, and you have a recipe for a human in turmoil. It’s no wonder that kids are walking around confused and edgy, continuously lashing out at the ones they love the most (sorry Mom!).

Approaching young adulthood can sometimes feel like you are riding a freight train full of mistakes. I have made many over the years, but I have also witnessed a lot of people make them too. It’s like the trickle effect of pain that continuously filters from one person to another.

Now I don’t want to make excuses for anyone’s genuinely bad behavior, because there are some people who simply have little-to-no redeemable qualities (and I have met a couple of them). However, I do believe that there are often reasons behind people’s sudden poor choices and actions. You can hurt someone, and that does not automatically make you a horrible person.

Say a good friend starts acting dismissive and rude. You ask her repeatedly if everything is ok, but she keeps saying she is fine. Yet you see her out shopping or on walks when she says she is staying home. Soon she stops returning calls and texts altogether. You would probably be pretty hurt and upset right?

Well, what if you later find out that she is struggling with depression? That it started out slowly, but eventually her life was restricted to only tackling basic daily needs. She closed her circle to only a few family members, and they were doing everything they could to get her out of the house. Would you suddenly feel a little less mad and a little more sympathetic?

We so rarely know everyone’s full story. We see a portion of the people we know at parties or events, but we don’t always know the closed door version. We don’t know what their life has brought them and what struggles they have been through.

It’s amazing how our pain can shape our present and our future. I know many of my most regrettable moments center around choices I made when I was in some form of pain. And it makes me so thankful for the people who have stuck by me and showed me support in those times when I needed it most. It is their love that has allowed me to heal.

I have two young children, and I do everything I can to love and guide them as they grow. Yet I know that no matter how good of a parent I am, my children will still experience hardships. I simply cannot stop that from happening.

Because life is not about avoiding pain or stopping others from hurting you, it’s about living life as it comes. A life without any pain is really a life not fully lived. I know that many of my greatest heartbreaks led me to my happiest life moments.

So I believe that instead of teaching my children to always try to avoid pain, it’s more important for them to understand how to respond to it. And if they can wrap their brains around this complicated but simple premise that hurt people hurt people, then maybe there is hope for them to find ways to feel compassion and give forgiveness to the people who cause them pain.

Because ultimately, that is what that person most likely needs…and probably something we have all needed at some point in our lives too.