There is a saying that I use. I think it is now common enough that people recognize and accept it. I believe it’s true, and I find it a good reminder for our interactions. That saying is: Hurt people hurt people. You’ve probably heard that.
If you haven’t, give it a second to think about it. The people that seem to walk around in this world hurting people (emotionally, physically, and psychologically) are generally people who have been hurt themselves. They are people who are acting in an effort to heal what is already imbalanced within themselves. They are often acting how they have been treated and have been taught to act. Hurt people hurt people.
Recognizing that helps us respond better when we find ourselves being hurt or mistreated. Rather than responding with anger and retaliation when we feel attacked or slighted we can have compassion on people who have been wronged themselves. In some cases we may even be able to break a cycle of hurting in the lives of people around us!
Accepting this saying as true has gotten me wondering what other characteristics of people would fit within this framework. If hurt people hurt people what should forgiven people do? Obviously the answer is forgive. As followers of Jesus Christ we are forgiven for all of our sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Shouldn’t we then become people who forgive others ourselves?
Matthew 6:15 is clear on this point, “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We are expected to forgive people.
What about redeemed people? Many of us look at the lives that we lived before we found Jesus and we see ruin and waste. We see that Jesus has redeemed those things which we had squandered. So if we are redeemed people what should we do?
Could we give people second chances? Could we make efforts to fix things that others have mismanaged? Could we choose to look at someone with grace and kindness instead of looking at the result of their unhealthy living?
One of the current themes in the discussion about what it means to be a person is this concept of being seen. People have a need to be seen for who they are or what they feel is important to/about them. As people who have been redeemed by Jesus could we see people as filled with potential for a miraculous work of Jesus rather than seeing them as rebellious failures, etc.?
When we come to church we often use the word ‘welcome’. People are welcome in church. They are welcome in relationship with us as well as with God. If we are then a welcome people what should welcome people do? Could we welcome people into our lives? Could we welcome them into our neighborhoods, social circles, churches, etc.? People need community, they need a place to belong. People need people. We could offer that to any and every one that we come in contact with.
So ultimately my question is what kind of person are you? And what should that kind of person be doing for the other people in your life?
Jeremy Alger is the pastor of the New Cumberland Church of the Nazarene. They meet in person and online every Sunday. For more information please visit www.newcumberlandnazarene.com