It is an old adage that “hurt people hurt people.”
It is well known that those who have been emotionally damaged tend to inflict their hurt and pain on other people. For example, a large percentage of those who have been sexually abused become the abusers of others; those who suffered under an alcoholic parent often themselves cause their future family to suffer because of their drunken stupors.
Until we as a church deal with the whole person as shown in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 our congregations will be filled with people who are spiritually gifted but act like emotional infants. In other words, the church must deal with emotional health and not just spiritual health and power.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
The following are common traits hurt people display in their interactions with others.
1. Hurt people often transfer their inner anger onto their family and close friends
Often those around them become the recipients of harsh tones and fits of rage because they have unknowingly become the vicarious recipients of transferred rage.
On the other hand, people often look for the obvious manifestations of this in grand or ostentatious ways, but it can also manifest in subtle ways like through passivity or repudiation.
2. Hurt people interpret every word spoken to them through the prism of their pain
Because of their pain, ordinary words are often misinterpreted to mean something negative towards them.
Because of this, they are extremely sensitive and act out of pain instead of reality.
3. Hurt people interpret every action through the prism of their pain
Their emotional pain causes them to suspect wrong motives or evil intent behind other people’s actions towards them.
4. Hurt people often portray themselves as victims and carry a “victim spirit”
Often hurt people can cry “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” or often use the words “unjust” or “unfair” to describe the way they are being treated, even if there is no truth to this. (That is not to say that sometimes there really is racism or sexism in some instances; this is just used as an example.)
Hurt people have a hard time entering into a “trusting” relationship. It’s possible to have ‘many’ friends yet not one friend with whom you can be completely vulnerable with.
Hurt people often carry around a suspicious spirit.
5. Hurt people often alienate others and wonder why no one is there for them
They often continually hurt the ones they love and need the most with their self-destructive behavior.
6. Hurt people have the emotional maturity of the age they received their (un-dealt with) hurt
For example, if a girl was raped by a man when she was 12 years old, unless she forgives that man and allows Christ to heal her heart and allay her fears, in that particular area of her life (sexuality with a man) her emotional growth will stop. Even when she reaches her later years she may still have the emotional maturity of a 12 year-old.
7. Hurt people are often frustrated and depressed because past pain continually spills over into their present consciousness
In many instances, they may not even be aware of why they are continually frustrated or depressed because they have coped with pain by compartmentalizing it or layering it over with other things over time.
8. Hurt people often erupt with inappropriate emotion because particular words, actions, or circumstances “touch” and “trigger” past woundedness
I have been in situations with people in which there was a gross overreaction to a word I spoke or an action that was taken. Although I was shocked and thought this reaction came “out of left field” it was really the person responding to an accumulation of years of hurt and pain that could not help but spill over in various situations.
I myself have been in situations where I felt hurt, troubled, or overreacted to something because it touched a nerve with what I was still dealing with because of a wound I received in the past. In these situations I have attempted to reason through the situation as objectively as I can with much prayer and introspection so I would not say or do anything damaging to another person or myself.
9. Hurt people often occupy themselves with busyness, work, performance, ambition, and/or accomplishments as a way of compensating for low self-esteem
Even ministers are not always motivated by a love for Jesus but a drive to accomplish.
It is important that pastors and ministers be led by the Spirit instead of being driven to succeed.
A minister should not preoccupy himself with making things happen. He should walk in integrity and humility and allow God to open up doors and provide a ministerial platform according to their assignment for their life and ministry.
10. Hurt people often attempt to medicate themselves with excessive entertainment, travel, drugs, alcohol, pornography, sexual relationships, food, or hobbies as a way to forget their pain and run from reality
The church must deal with and emphasize the emotional life and health of the believer, so the body will find victory and healing from the wounds in their souls.
11. Hurt people surround themselves with other hurt people
In order to avoid having to deal with past hurts and wounds, hurt people will often surround themselves with other hurt or wounded people. This behavior subconsciously allows them to validate their behavior further by reiterating the thinking and making it seem normal to them that there is no need to address deep rooted issues. It creates a seemingly safe environment for them to socialize without the fear that anyone will ever touch or come near those places in which they feel the most vulnerable, knowing that the other person(s) wants to also avoid addressing these an such issues.
Having safe environments is very important for a persons spiritual, emotional, social development, but if the relationship we share in those environments remain superficial, then we can spend years never actually maturing, and using those environments as a crutch to escape the work of actual spiritual, emotional, or social growth.
12. Hurt people have learned to accommodate their private “false self” or “dark side” which causes them to be duplicitous and lack integrity
Often their private life is very different from their public life, which causes hypocrisy and compounds feelings of guilt, condemnation, and depression.
13. Hurt people are often self-absorbed with their own pain and are unaware that they are hurting other people
They are often insensitive to other people because their emotional pain limits their capacity for empathy and their capacity for self-awareness.
I have been in numerous situations when someone hurt me and kept on going in the relationship without ever apologizing because they had no clue what they were doing. Consistently left unattended, past hurts can leave us insensitive to how our words or actions affect others.
14. Hurt people are susceptible to demonic deception
I am convinced that most of the divisions in the family, church and society as a whole are caused by people who lack emotional health and project their pain onto others.
Satan works in darkness and deception, and stays away from the light. Hurt people often have destructive habit-patterns that are practiced in the dark. Hence, their mind becomes a breeding ground for satanic infiltration and deception.
When the church deals with the emotional health of the individual, there are less footholds for demonic infiltration. (The Battlefield of the Mind) Also, there is stronger relationships, stronger marriages, healthier children, and a more balanced approach to ministry with less of a chance of pastoral and congregational burnout.
15. God often purposely surfaces pain so hurt people can face reality
Whether it is because of a marriage problem, or continual personal conflicts on the job, God often allows conflict and spillover because he wants the infection to stop spreading and the person to be healed.
Often Christians are fighting the devil and blaming him for conflict when in essence God often allows conflict so that people would be motivated to dig deeper into their lives to deal with root causes of destructive thought and habit patterns.
God’s purpose for us is that we would all be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This does not just happen with Bible studies, prayer, and times of glory but also in painful situations when we have to face what has been hurting us for many years.
I have noticed that these periods of surfacing woundedness often take place when people transition into the mid-life years of their upper thirties and later. Perhaps this is because by then they are old enough to understand by experience that there is something wrong and also that it is not too late to redeem their pain and restore relationships and maximize their purpose.
Rarely is a person able or even willing to deal with and face pain when they hit their senior years (in their sixties or older). Most at this age have already become cynical, hardhearted, and/or become so depressed they have become hopeless even though God is able to help them at any age.
16. Hurt people need to forgive to be released and restored to freedom
The Gospel of St. John 20:23 says that we have to release the sins of others if we are going to be released ourselves. This means that if we do not forgive others, then the very thing we have become victimized with – will become a part of our life. For example, alcoholic fathers breed alcoholic sons if their sons do not forgive and release their fathers.
I’m sure we’ve heard it said before that: “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This saying is true.
Since we are all human, and subject to feel hurts or even to encounter disagreements like everyone else, everyone will find some area on this list of things where they may still need to work through. The good news is that, through the efficacious blood of Jesus Christ, we can all be healed and set free from all past hurts so we can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Truly, the messes in our lives can become a ‘message’ to help others!
This holiday, remember the reason for the season.
I implore you,
Special thanks to P. Joseph Mattera