How To Move Forward When Someone Has Done Harmful Things To You
One of the most freeing things anyone ever said to me was, “…and, unfortunately, you’re going to get hurt again.”
(I know…probably not quite what you were expecting.)
These words were said by my therapist, in the midst of a break up that unceremoniously wrecked me and my heart.
I went to counseling really just to talk about this one relationship in particular so I could figure out why it had broken my heart into tiny pieces. I liked the guy a ton, but the backlash of emotions from the breakup was too much for even me to handle. (And I have A LOT of emotions). But one conversation about one failed relationship led to conversations about a slew of others. Most of which ended with me with a heart in pieces.
Often this was the result of maybe picking not the best guy for me because I have a habit of trying really too hard to see the best in people. And as I type those words I do not even mean for them to sound the way they do. For me, it’s not always a positive thing. For Mother Theresa — it was a virtue. For me — it can often be a curse.
It’s more of a matter of not being great at picking up on red flags or when something (or someone) is potentially harmful for me. I tend to dive in to things heart first without considering whether or not this person could be detrimental to me. It’s not sweet or cute — it’s often a bit reckless.
However, even as I work to do a better job of working slow, really reading people, and assessing who they are, I’ll always lean into working to see the best in people, because that is how I’m wired. (What I do with that wiring is another I’m learning as I go, but I digress.)
“It’s a beautiful thing that you try so hard to see the best in people, and that is why you get hurt, and unfortunately, you’re going to get hurt again.” I found these words so freeing because she wasn’t telling me to change. She was recognizing and affirming that this is indeed how I am wired and, although we can work to figure out how to navigate this in a healthy way, it’s bound to bring more pain in my life down the road.
So, now, knowing that this is something I’ll deal with more times than once, I set out to figure out how to best move forward from it when it happens. And the steps are the same every time.
Process. Pray. Forgive.
You may recognize these steps from a post I wrote previously about what to do when you’ve been blindsided by someone you love. The same steps are there as well.
Process. Pray. Forgive.
I think first you have to take a step back and allow yourself to process what has happened. Take time to sort through the feelings and emotions you are going through. Identify each one. What are they? Probably a lot of sadness. Maybe a bit of confusion. Potentially some shock in there as well. A hint of anger may creep in. Take the time you need to filter through your thoughts and feelings associated with this pain. It’s extremely hard to move forward if you cannot identify how and what you’re feeling.
So this one probably seems a little “duh,” but oftentimes it can be the hardest step to follow.
I am not sure about you, but sometimes the last thing that I want to do, when I am extremely sad or hurt, is pray. Because even when someone here on Earth is the one that hurts me, I still take some of my anger out on God. “Why did you allow this to happen? Why is this happening to me?”
I’ve been known to give God the silent treatment a time or two. However, that never really lasts long. Even as I’m ignoring the Word or prayer, there is always a pull in my heart to return back to Jesus. Because one of the great things about God’s character is that we can take everything to Him. All of it. The hurt, the sadness, the anger – and He’ll still love us and welcome us back. Every single time.
It may take some time to come back to God (or maybe it’s the first thing you do), but after you spend some time sorting through the pain, begin talking things out with Him. Ask Him to reveal truths to you from this situation. Ask Him to help you heal. Eventually you may even begin praying for the person that hurt you.
This step may take a long time to get to, depending on the situation. It’s sometimes a step we can’t get to on our own, either. Getting to this point can take a lot of patience and prayer. For some people and situations, forgiveness can come rather quickly – a few days or weeks. For others, it could take years.
I think that no matter how long it takes, forgiveness is something we should always be working toward. And maybe you’re not ready now, and that’s okay. I think at the end of the day, though, as we continue to follow Jesus…even if we’re completely ignoring this idea…we know that we should be working to forgiveness. God continually prompts our spirit to make our way down that road. And forgiveness can look differently in every situation. Sometimes it means you patch things up with the person and your relationship is tighter than ever. Other times not. Sometimes it means losing a friendship altogether or never even having the opportunity to tell someone you forgive them. It’s still critical to work toward this step, if not for anyone but for yourself. Not only so you can move forward, but also because Jesus committed the ultimate action to forgive us of all of our sins.
And maybe a fourth step I would add to this now is Fight or Flight.
Fight or Flight
I think it’s important to work toward forgiveness no matter what — if not for the other person, maybe even just to free yourself from the chains of anger. But as you’re working toward that step — and maybe it’s during the forgiveness portion, and maybe it’s well before you get to the end of it — you choose whether or not you’re going to fight for this relationship or flee from it.
A lesson I had to learn early on (that I’m often still learning honestly), is that not every relationship is meant to be in your life forever. Relationship could mean a romantic relationship, a friendship, or even a working relationship. After there’s been some bad blood between two people, it’s important to assess whether or not the relationship is worth fighting for. Obviously, a breakup with a boyfriend is typically a flight situation. But maybe if a friend has done something harmful to you, the tension might be worth navigating through and the relationship may be worth fighting for. Weigh the pros and cons and if the relationship has been more harmful to you than helpful, it may be time to close the door. And this action won’t be easy, but the same first three steps can apply here as well. Process. Pray. Forgive.
I sincerely hope that if you’re reading this, you aren’t currently finding yourself in a situation where your’e trying to figure out how to move forward after someone has hurt you; however, if you are — I hope you find these words helpful and encouraging as you take those first steps forward.