Hurting others

I would love to be able to say that this post was a topic that came to me randomly and I just wanted to talk about it.  That is not how it happened.  This topic is on my mind because I made a mistake and hurt someone’s trust in me.  It happens, right?  But, for those that know me, it is not that easy for me to accept.  It is not enough to generalize or minimize the pain by saying that “everyone makes mistakes”, or “everyone causes pain in others, at times”.  
In my work as a parent and as a counselor, heck, as a human being, I have to accept that I am not perfect.  I have to realize that I had the best intentions and hope that, in the long run, God can do a Great Work through my mess-up.  That is the Truth that I have to continuously tell myself.  But, once again, that is not good enough for me.  I can’t take a back-seat and say, “Well, I messed up.  God will have to fix it”.  I don’t believe it works that way.  

When I mess up as a parent, I take steps to make it a learning experience for me and my children.  I let my children know my mistake and ask for their forgiveness.  When I yell without reason, I admit that to them and ask for their forgiveness.  I have to take what steps I can to fix my mistake.  It is, after all, my mistake, my responsibility.  
So, how can I use this as a learning experience?  First off, acknowledging the mistake is important. Proverbs 28:13 says:
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy
Now, I am not a theologian, but I do take this to mean a person needs to admit his mistake, ask for forgiveness, and learn how to keep it from happening again.  Compassion and empathy acknowledge that those wronged may be upset and not ready to forgive.  I have to be willing to understand their point of view and accept that they may still be hurting.  
This is the difficult part for me.  I have trouble accepting that there is nothing I can do.  I feel the drive to make IT better, somehow.  I have to accept that those involved need time to process and heal.  
Let’s recap real quick.  We have:
  • admit the mistake
  • understand and acknowledge the pain caused
  • ask for forgiveness, and accept their answer
I believe the next step is to offer to fix the problem however is effective and appropriate.  This may sound easy, but pain can make us say and do things we wouldn’t usually say or do.  And, especially as the one that caused the pain, we may feel the drive to do anything asked.  There has to be a direct connection to RENOUNCING the behavior. I stress renouncing in order to specify that whatever is asked must help the offended move past the pain.  This point brings up 2 important considerations:
  1. Acts of revenge only cause the pain to be transferred and continued.
  2. The focus is on the offended, not the offender.

I have to keep the focus on the other person and do what will help them.  I give up my right to “feeling better” when I hurt the other person and acknowledge my mistake.
Are you ready for this to come full circle?  Sometimes, pain is inevitable.  That’s right.  There are times that no matter what we do, if we do what is right, we will end up hurting someone.  There are correct, moral, and proper decisions that still end up hurting others.  I do recognize this as a fact.  Does this truth apply to my current circumstance?  After a lot of self-assessment, no, it does not apply to me.  I definitely made a mistake.  But I can say honestly, “I had good intentions at heart”, and was “trying to do the right thing”.  That is the aspect that keeps resonating with me, I messed up and the other person was affected, despite my intentions. 

It is at this point where a person must accept that there is only so much that can be done after a mistake.  This is where I currently am, I am at a crossroads where I have done everything I can do, for now, but I feel like I need to do more.  I caused pain and cannot change what happened.  I continue to pray for healing for the other person as I also try to accept my mistake.

While this may sound like a ramble, it has helped me process.  Hopefully, it will also help someone else in a similar situation.  Thank you for reading.    

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Toby Riley


  1. Natalie Richey on June 17, 2015 at 11:26 am

    This touched my heart so much!! I too struggle with what you have described. Even when the person has forgiven me. I cant stand that I caused anyone pain. But I have learned over time that if we seek God's forgiveness he does forgive because he loves us that much. So if God can love us that much to forgive us we sound do the same for ourselves. But you are right about our intention should be to do our best to not make that mistake again. I appreciate you sharing it ready helped!!!

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