Breaking the Cycle of Pain

I have a Joyce Meyer perpetual calendar on my desk in my home office. As I glanced over to see what today’s little mini-devotional was about, I read the following words: Hurting people hurt people.

This is a true statement. When we are hurting, it is much easier for us to ignore the basic needs of others (even those we claim to love), and spew our hurt out onto everything and everyone within shouting distance.

When I hear these words, I am reminded of a time several years ago when a young woman said them to me. She was someone I was very close to. She was like a sister to me. I had poured into her life, and we had shared some wonderful times together in ministry.

But she had entered into a season of rebellion and seemed hell-bent on self-destruction, breaking the hearts of her family and all who knew her. I was at a birthday party one evening, sitting alone on the hearth of the fireplace, not really in much of a party mood. My world was being turned upside down by a husband who had been repeatedly unfaithful and was at that time completely unrepentant.

This young woman I described came and sat down beside me and informed me she was pregnant – the inevitable consequence of her reckless behavior. She went on to describe how she had recently introduced my husband to a young woman at a party for the express purpose of the latter two slipping off into the next room to have sex. My “friend” had actively participated in the assault on my marriage. I was devastated.

When I asked her how she could do that to me, she casually remarked, “Oh well, you know what they say. Hurting people hurt people.” Without even an ounce of remorse or regret in her voice, and not even an attempt at an apology, she dropped that little bombshell as an excuse for her behavior and walked off to rejoin the party. She seemed to genuinely believe that her own pain (the ultimate source of which was her own hardened heart) was a legitimate excuse for doing what she did; and furthermore, she seemed to imply that the fact that she, too, was “hurting” should somehow lessen my own pain.

Are you kidding me?

The following year was an emotional roller coaster ride that ultimately crashed head-on into the end of my marriage. Her words and the spirit in which they were offered lingered with me for a long time and became part of what I had to let go of and get healed from. That friendship has never been restored. Sometimes we must let go and leave behind the things that are toxic to our emotional health. It isn’t easy, but the resulting peace is worth it.

A Word to the Wise
If you have hurt someone, especially someone you love and/or who loves you, do not offer lame excuses for your behavior. Own it. Confess it. Get it right with God first. Then you will be in a more legitimate place to make it right with the one you have wounded.

If you have been hurt by someone, forgive as quickly as possible, whether or not the offending party has any clue to the damage they have caused. Don’t confuse forgiveness with being a doormat for someone who is unrepentant or who obviously has their own issues to work through before they can be a part of a healthy relationship. Establishing healthy boundaries and learning how to gently and lovingly enforce them is one of the most liberating things we can do when we have been hurt.

Don’t let your own pain give way to you hurting someone else. When I was going through the unbelievable heartbreak of the last several months of my first marriage, there were times when I wanted to hurt someone – anyone. But the Holy Spirit kept a close rein on me, and I could not lash out. Instead, I experienced some of the most precious times alone with Him as He held me and healed me. The lie is that if you hurt someone else, you will feel better. Don’t fall for it. It is a trap. It is what keeps the “hurting people hurt people” cycle moving forward. Stop it.

Happy Endings
God is faithful. After my divorce, I spent a few years getting healed and rediscovering who I was before He brought a wonderful man into my life. My husband, David, and I have been married for over nine years now, and he is the love of my life and has taught me more about unconditional love than I ever imagined possible.

I have also been blessed with a whole circle of girlfriends, some near and some far, who have become to me a sisterhood I treasure and trust. These are women who have seen the good, the bad and the ugly and they love me anyway, and I, them. These are the women I will live next door to in eternity, as we laugh and love and live forever.

As for the young woman, I have not kept up with her personally. What others have shared with me over the years would indicate that she struggled for a long time, well into her own marriage, with conquering the selfish outlook on life that was so destructive when I knew her. My prayer is that she will one day, if she has not already, truly experience the freedom that comes from genuine repentance and true inner healing – the kind that digs deep and draws out the source of the pain and disposes of it. For good.

My first husband has recently taken another bride (his fourth). My sincere prayer is that this marriage will last – that after all these years, perhaps he has finally learned what it means to genuinely love his bride the way Christ loves the church – unselfishly and unconditionally. I pray that his past will not haunt him, and that the peace that passes all understanding will reign in his heart and in their home.

Do hurting people hurt people? Absolutely. But they don’t have to. Choose repentance. Choose forgiveness. Choose the hope of a different tomorrow. Cling to Jesus, and He will lead you there.

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2 Responses to Breaking the Cycle of Pain

  1. Katie says:

    This is beautiful, Rachael. Thank you for being so transparent and allowing us to learn from your journey. Love you!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Katie. This marks the first time I have written about any part of my divorce with any detail where anyone can see it. I have always been so careful about what I say publicly, because I don’t want to cause unnecessary pain or shame to him and his family. But I have sincerely prayed for many years for the words to share my experience and what the Lord has done through it with others in a way that would not cause harm. I hope this is the beginning of that.

    Love you, too, sweet lady!