Sometimes we can hear or repeat a catch phrase and it becomes like white noise. The more we say it and hear it, the less impact they seem to have. When such phrases fade into white noise status, the words can lose their power. One of those phrases for me is “hurt people hurt people”. There is an alternate route I have come to love which is “healed people heal people”. Used in this way, however, I feel it sounds as though one has to be completely healed before they can take part in the healing of another person. Are we not all in the process of hurting and healing? Yes, it is difficult to sit with someone in distress while we are undergoing our own struggle. But what if this increases our capacity for more authentic compassion and empathy?
When I post things I write people ask me why I do this. The undertone I feel coming from the question, whether intended or not, is whether one should have an opinion when undergoing the process of their own raw vulnerability. I also wonder if we only expect professionals to write about things they have researched and learned, instead of that which they are still in the process of learning. Have we become so accustomed to divvying out duties reserved for experts that we are afraid of learning hard things and practicing them for ourselves? I’m not suggesting that if one needs a therapist or a doctor they should not go see one. But even medicine is a practice and the experts are learning new things everyday. What I am getting at is the “expert” in practicing resilience while dealing with their human condition is often the one in the eye of the storm learning what it means to be human. I feel this is part of what Theodore Roosevelt meant when he said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Brene Brown brings attention to this famous quote in her book: Daring Greatly. (Did you really think I would write something without making a Brene reference?) Yes. I quote her often. But it doesn’t make me an expert in Brownism. It makes me a human who is on the path of healing. One can say “I really like funk music and how it makes me feel”. But do you really know the essence and origin of funk? What right do you have to say anything about it if you know so little?! There are critics everywhere. Even those who are hurting the most can be some of our worst critics.
Hurt people hurt people. While this statement is not giving allowance to pain being inflicted by someone experiencing their own pain, it gives us pause to consider why they are causing pain. There’s almost always a why to the cause. We tend to merely treat the symptoms of the pain without addressing the actual origin of the pain. We numb, we medicate, we divert our attention in every other direction. While pondering this phrase with more introspection, I started changing some of the words to perhaps bring a little more perspective. Here’s a few I thought of, what are some of yours?
Broken people break people
Abused people abuse people
Rejected people reject people
Angry people anger people
Hardened people harden people
Betrayed people betray people
Weak people weaken people
To what end?
What about these ones?
Strong people strengthen people
Softened people soften people
Healed people heal people
Loved people love people
I am sure you can look at your current life or life in retrospect and come up with some which more aptly applies to your experiences.
The point is this. We are the experts of both our own pain and our healing. We are the ones who can break the cycle and do not need to perpetuate it. We don’t always need to wait for an expert to fix us, because the process of turning from negative to positive could be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. It is not always that simple. We cannot always wait for someone else to stop the hamster wheel when we are the ones giving it the power. (Read that one again). We need to seek professional help to brake these cycles at times when we are unable to successfully do so ourselves. Sometimes we just don’t have the tools or we’ve run out of steam.
Wherever you are in your process, whether hurting or healing, know these things: You are not alone in your process. You can brake the cycle. People will come and go, but you and I still have a choice of the people we bring into our circle. I don’t know if I completely agree with the “we attract what we are” motto, but it is important we recognize who or what we attract and decide if they are contributing to the improvement or destruction of our health. I sent a meme to my friend the other day which read, “The most memorable people in life will be the friends who loved you when you weren’t very lovable.” To which he replied, “You’re plenty lovable. You just need better people around you.” While I appreciate the sentiment, nobody is necessarily “better”, but if their influence is bringing me down, I need to seriously evaluate if they are good for me or if I am strong enough to be good for them. It’s good to have friends who remind you you are “plenty lovable” and don’t treat you like you are hard to love.
We must also recognize that some of the most beautiful and loving people are also hurting and broken. It’s not always so black and white. Sometimes we are in a place to help with the healing and sometimes we need to step back for our own health. This doesn’t make one or the other “good” or “bad”. It just means that often times people need to evaluate their own space and determine where on the spectrum they are and how much they can handle. If you are not in a position to remain strong while trying to help someone who is hurting and broken, you can help the other access help even if you are not the person responsible for the healing.
We are in this together and doing the best we can. We don’t need to hangout in the hurt zone for too long, but we need to sit with it and be mindful our behaviors aren’t causing unnecessary harm as we lean towards healthier living. Yes, hurt people hurt people. But loved people love people and healed people heal people.