It’s kind of crazy the ease with which we can help or hurt one another, often without even knowing it. Sometimes the simplest of things can cut the deepest. And, likewise, sometimes the tiniest incident can make our day.
Even helping someone, or knowing we did one of those little made-their-day things for someone else, can usually lift our own spirits, as well.
But most of the time, I think it’s the things that hurt which get the most of our attention. Whether someone hurts us, or we hurt someone else, even the little things are tough to leave behind. We carry them with us going forward, if we are able to move forward from them at all. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but it’s the invisible wounds – mental, emotional, spiritual ones – which are difficult to heal. They stick to us, and even if we manage to peel some of one away, there’s still a residue of sorts. A remnant. A tiny fragment which leaves a mark on our soul as it buries itself deep within our psyche.
It holds on and remains alive within us, because on some level, some tiny dark part of ourselves believes it, and feeds it.
Maybe it’s something about our appearance. Or a particular skill we’ve been working to improve. A perception of our intelligence, or our ability to be a good friend. Maybe it’s just whether or not someone loves us. It’s really a multitude of things – tiny disconnects between how we see ourselves, how the rest of the world sees us, and how we think/want the rest of the world to see us. The tricky part is that, the rest of the world is not nearly as important as those select few that we let in enough to know us; those chosen ones with whom we connect on a deeper level. The ones closest to us have the ability to hurt us the most, and yet we have to allow them that ability – as they do for us – in order to be share that closeness with them in the first place.
I do believe that intention is an important factor, as someone hurting you by accident, without knowledge or malice, is entirely different from when someone intends to hurt you. When it’s a deliberate act, it definitely adds another layer, or quality, to the sensation of the person on the receiving end. It’s the ultimate betrayal, the deliberate breaking of trust.
Either way, however, I’m not sure it hurts any less when it’s unintentional. I think it’s just a different kind of hurt.
When someone has hurt you, there are all kinds of solid, logical advice you receive from others, and even give to yourself. Forgive and forget is a popular staple. And forgiveness is completely possible and healthy for all parties involved. It’s the forgetting part that seems less doable. You can hear people tell you positive things all day, every day. You can tell yourself these things while looking in a mirror and reminding yourself to breathe. But the moment even an off-hand comment is made that aligns itself with that darkness within, it feeds the beast, and the memories of every remotely related incident come rushing back to help deepen the wound a tiny bit more. Because dormant memories aren’t gone and forgotten. They are just asleep. You sometimes don’t even realize you still have them until suddenly you’re fighting tears on the way to the washroom where you can cry without being seen.
Sometimes nothing much is required to set it off again. Often it’s just a vague feeling, a sense of something being off, and while you’re trying to sort that out, BLAM! Other things not even similar come flying in to remind you that they haven’t gone anywhere.
It’s all related to self-esteem, really, I think. But I don’t believe anyone has perfect confidence all the time, every moment. Lots of people fake it, some really well, but everyone has known doubt. Everyone has moments where they aren’t sure exactly what their truth really is, versus what they really want it to be.
And you know what’s even crazier? That even those among us who feel the lowest have the ability to – intentionally or not – hurt one of those super-confident-seeming people. Without even knowing we’ve done it, we all have the ability to cut someone deeply. And we do it all the time.
Which, when you’re aware of it, of even the possibility of it, comes with a boatload of guilt, and that also feeds the beast inside. What kind of person are you if you go around hurting other people the way people hurt you? What if you hurt them even more than you’ve been hurt? You can apologize, you can make amends, but now you’ve caused another being irrevokeable harm, and you can’t take it back. Not all of it. Some of it has attached itself and become another part of their inner darkness. Something you said or did – or didn’t say, or didn’t do – has become a part of the pain they carry every day, just as you carry yours.
Once in awhile I play those moments when I know I’ve hurt someone over and over in my head, and I let myself feel that guilt and shame all over again before I put it back to sleep. I know I only recognize a tiny percentage of the incidents, too, which makes it worse, in a way. But I let myself feel as much as I can, anyway, because in my mind, it makes me a better person than if I felt no regret at all.
That’s the thing, really. It all lives in our minds. We can’t stop from being hurt by others, nor can we stop hurting them ourselves, but we can control how we handle it; how we hold it. We can recognize that it’s there, and own it. We know the beast will get fed by others, and we know we’ll feed the beasts of others, too. But we can make a conscious decision to not feed our own, and to not do any of it deliberately.
Will we still hurt and be hurt? Absolutely. And it’ll still suck. But the darkness will always retreat back into its corner, and the beast will always fall back to sleep for the times in between.
And during those in-between times, we will laugh and love, until we hurt again. For the sum total of it all is what it is to really live.