When You Unintentionally Hurt Others

I experienced a really difficult situation tonight. You know that saying “hurt people hurt people” . . . ? Yeah, I lived that tonight. And the knowledge that I hurt someone else made me hurt really, really badly. It also made me think about the people who have hurt me in the past, mostly unintentionally, and how I pushed them away and clung to my pain.

To be honest, this past week has been a terrible week. I experienced some personal pain that resulted in the worst panic attack I’ve had in a long time. Other friends also had difficult weeks, seemingly all around the same timeframes. Our nation also experienced severe tragedy. Everyone is hurting.

When I hurt, it doesn’t take much to trigger me into deep pain. I’ve tried to heal the wounds, but they are too big for me. I’ve called out to God, and honestly, it doesn’t seem like He has done much about it. That complicates faith quite a bit. It certainly makes faith a choice when you aren’t feeling it.

Earlier this week, I saw something that ripped open the wound of rejection in my heart. After that, it seemed like I was facing rejection everywhere.

Someone stole my Open House signs on my first day hosting an open house as a Realtor. That small thing shouldn’t have made me feel as rejected and violated as it did, but it did.

Then, I tried to purchase an item from a person I know on Facebook but was ignored. It really wasn’t the ignoring that got me. It was that I had tried to purchase items from this person before, and also been ignored. And it wasn’t just her, but I experienced severe rejection from multiple people at the church she attends (that I also attended for a couple of years until I finally left), after going through some of the worst things in my life (i.e. when my brother was sentenced to 10 years in prison, I was stood up by the prayer “leader” and other leaders I set up appointments to try to meet with).

This girl sort of embodied all I thought was good in that church. The rejection I perceived to get from her via Facebook poured salt into the old wounds from the people I had once admired at that church and then been extremely burned and rejected by.

Being ignored on Facebook shouldn’t have bothered me so much, but it did. I was sick of being rejected and ignored, especially by people at THAT church. I had already unfriended most of the people who triggered my pain, but I didn’t want to unfriend her because I thought she was different from them.

So I contacted her instead. I told her I was frustrated about being ignored. Ironically, our last message from several years ago was me asking her if I had offended her, and if that was that why she was ignoring my request to place an order from her.

Back then, she responded that she was busy and missed the message and how sorry she was. Still, she never followed through with the order. I didn’t pursue it.

This time, she responded in a similar way. She said she was busy and that she’s sorry I felt that way, but that she missed the message.

I was talking to someone else at the time and didn’t read her full message. I responded with a curt explanation that I understood she was busy, but that this was the third time I had tried to order from her and been ignored, and that I wouldn’t be trying to order from her again in the future.

She responded that she understood and that someone else had wanted that item before I did, but that she understood.

I responded again that I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but that I respected her and her work, and that I felt if she continued to treat customers the way she had treated me that people were going to start going away from her. I told her that I hoped her the best in her endeavors.

Then I read the rest of her email response. And my heart dropped.

She said her reason for not responding and being busy was that her mother was diagnosed with cancer last week. Last week. That terrible week. That same day I had had the horrible panic attack that sent me into depression for the weekend.

And my response to her vulnerability was that I understood things get busy, but this was the third time I had been ignored and I wasn’t going to try again.

Wow. What a coldhearted, jerky thing to say to someone who just told you their mother was diagnosed with cancer. I felt like the most terrible person in the world, and I am sure she thought I was. I didn’t mean to be, but that is what it appeared I was.

I wrote back, telling her I had just fully read her message, and that I was sorry I hurt her and added to her stress. She had already un-friended me from Facebook.

To be honest, if I were her, I would have totally blasted me. I would have definitely told me off and been very hateful about it.

But she responded with “I understand . . .” and putting up the seemingly well-deserved boundary of unfriending–just like I had with all those “hateful” people from that church she represented who hurt me so much.

In the middle of complaining that she wasn’t listening to me, I failed to listen to her. I was so caught up in my hurt and my being tired of being rejected and ignored over and over and over again that I put up a boundary that said NO MORE. I was so selfishly caught up in my hurt, I hurt her.

I hate hurting others. I never mean to, but when it happens I have a very real knowledge that I cannot I stop the hurt I’ve caused. I know it because I’ve been hurt and no matter how much the other person is sorry (or maybe didn’t even mean to hurt me) it doesn’t stop the pain.

I felt so guilty for what I had done, I immediately wrote the girl a letter and bought her something simple. The package is on the table and ready to be mailed.

But something else happened in the middle of all of this processing. My pain from the past became too much again and I started spewing out hatred all over my apartment. I resentfully looked at the package and thought of all the people who had hurt me and how they had never done anything to try to fix it. I started cursing the people who had hurt me from that girl’s church, expressing my feelings of hate for them.

I started crying and asking God why He left me here in this pain. I asked God if anyone even cared in the whole world.

Immediately, I heard HIM silently answer, “I will not leave you comfortless . . .” 

Right there in the middle of the worst of my brokenness, in the middle of love that had grown very cold, was a still small whisper. God wasn’t angry at my anger, my resentment, or my ocean of hurt. He was just there.

To be honest, it took me a while to calm down, but then I knew I had to write about this somewhere because writing is really the only thing that makes anything make sense to me.

This whole world is full of pain, hurt, misunderstanding, rejection, and all sorts of misjudgments and broken relationships. People are facing far worse realities than I have ever had. They will never have the answer to their question, “Why me?”

Tonight, my blunder and self-defense cost me the acquaintance of a person I admire. We were never close friends, though I wished I could have been friends with her and her friends. I was never accepted into their group, no matter how much I tried. I’m sure it’s for the best that she and I are no longer connected on social media, but it is sad it has to be that way.

Who knows what kind of hurts she and her friends and her church experienced that caused them to be so rejecting of others in the first place. Their hurts turned into my hurts, which turned into more hurt for them and me.

Is it possible that somehow this entire situation can be turned around for the good? Not just this situation, but also the situation I had last week that left me reeling from the heartbreak and pain of a previous great loss?

I honestly can’t see it at the moment. How can any separation between people be a good thing? How can any brokenness be a good thing?

I looked up the words that came to me in the midst of my hateful rage. “I will not leave you comfortless . . .”  It came from a passage in John, chapter 14, verses 18-23.

I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall.” John 14:18-23

Yes, the world is broken and so am I. But Jesus is coming back to redeem His people from all of this hurt and brokenness. As the love in the world grows cold, sometimes it feels as if we sense God’s presence less and less. It shakes us to the core. The disconnection between Believers makes it worse. We hold onto hurt, pain, and unforgiveness and we let go of people.

Somehow I don’t think it was meant to be that way. If only we would love each other enough to not cut each other off to protect ourselves. Maybe we would see that we never meant to hurt each other in the first place.

I don’t understand why the hurts I’ve experienced happened. But I do know I do not want to hold onto them. I don’t want to go through life in pain. I don’t want to reject people because they reject me. I don’t want to be filled with hurt, bitterness, or resentment.

God, have mercy on my heart. Please heal me. I can’t fix these things myself. I can’t fix myself. I am at Your mercy.

I will send the package and the card to the girl. I will not try to be her friend or purchase items from her. I won’t try to comfort her because of her mother’s situation; that is for her real friends to do. But I will remember her. I will remember that she didn’t respond to me with hatred, perhaps indifference, but not hatred. She simply put up a boundary to protect herself. And I totally understand that, because I do it too.


Rachael Hartman is a 30-something with two dogs, and a passion for writing. She owns Our Written Lives, LLC an independent Christian publishing company.

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