“No one heals themselves by wounding another.”
I recently read this quote by Saint Ambrose and it has caused me to think a lot about how difficult it is to love others when we ourselves are hurting, angry, upset, stressed, sad, broken…(the list of when it’s hard to love can go on and on).
Sometimes we are so focused on what isn’t working right for us, that it seems almost impossible to reach beyond our own pity party, to see others in need and to love them. But this quote gets at something much deeper than just being self- absorbed and forgetting that there are others out there who need our love.
I think it points to something within each one of us that is part of our fallen human nature: whenever we are down, we want to take others down with us. I’m not referring to the “misery loves company” sentiment that just wants a friend to wallow with us on a rainy day.
Let me illustrate and see if you recognize your own behavior:
· I’m having a hard time believing that I am beautiful, acceptable, good enough, etc. If I don't feel good about myself, I don’t want anyone else to feel good either. Instead of genuinely praising and affirming others’ gifts, talents, and attributes, I speak to them or about them in a critical, demeaning way. Whether I’m conscious of it or not, when I do this I am trying to diminish them, in order to make me feel better about myself. You cannot heal yourself by wounding another.
· I’ve been hurt by other people in the past and I find it difficult to trust others. Instead of letting other people into my life, I keep people at a distance, even to the extent of doing or saying hurtful things. But this approach never works because it only leaves me more alone and isolated, and confirms whatever I already fear—that no one can really know and love me. You cannot heal yourself by wounding another.
· I’m angry and upset and whoever gets in my path will feel my wrath. This might be a bit overstated, but we sometimes take things out on others, especially those who are close to us because we know “they will love us no matter what”. While that may be true, you cannot heal yourself by wounding another.
If our daily, weekly, yearly, and life-long goal is to get better at loving, then we have to take an honest look at the way we treat others—in our speech (on a screen and in person) and in our actions (great and small). We need to decide that certain ways we treat people, especially when we are hurting, just isn’t acceptable because it isn’t authentic love. Not only does it damage others, it hurts us as well, because we cannot heal ourselves by wounding another. This type of love is revolutionary and when we practice it, putting aside our own wounds, we allow the healing love of Christ to enter into our lives and others’.
Here’s a simple, practical tip: if you’re not sure that what you say or do—even as a joke—could be hurtful, pause and quietly ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” Then go, and Be Love!
Image via Dreamstime