I Think I Hurt Someone: How Do I Clear the Air?

purposedinthecosmos asked a question:

Sometimes we do good things that people may perceive as bad especially if they don’t know the heart behind our actions. Is it necessary to clear that up? Also how can you not be hurt by the way people (think) you treated them or who they (think) you are?

Hey dear friend. I would validate what the other person says with as much reverence as you can.

If someone thinks you have harmed them, even if you have tried to help them, I would consider taking them seriously and being open to hearing them out.

If a person says, “You hurt me,” they are saying it for a reason. It might not always be the best reason, but that’s why a discussion needs to be had.

It’ll be messy and sloppy and full of embarrassing cringe, especially if this is between friends, but that’s how friendship goes. Friendship isn’t all fun and games, but requires the weird work of meeting in the middle between two different wills.

On one hand, what someone feels might not be the best reflection of what is truly happening. On the other hand, I would never want to outright dismiss a person’s pain, regardless of what I might think about it.

Here’s the thing. Everyone’s perception is valid from their own point of view. Everything that everyone says and does and feels makes sense to them. Often a disagreement is not a matter of right and wrong, but different perspectives. To have grace means we honor each person’s view and story and opinion. That sort of humility isn’t easy, but in a good friendship, both have the goal of seeing through the other person’s eyes.

I know that sometimes people will gaslight or emotionally blackmail others by exaggerating their pain. This is abusive and must be stopped. Other times it’s a complete misunderstanding of motives and methods, which must be clarified.

But for the most part, if someone says you hurt them, I bet it wasn’t easy for them to say so. If you shut them down every time they bring that up, eventually nobody will feel safe around you. I think the worst thing you can do to someone is to be mad every time someone feels the way they feel. That’s a recipe for loneliness. I’m not saying this is what you’re doing at all, but I’ve been guilty of it. It’s an easy rut to get stuck in.

Once you both clarify what you mean, only then can both sides truly examine themselves. It’s possible the person who was hurt will say, “I see you didn’t mean to hurt me.” And it’s possible you will say, “I didn’t realize that was hurtful but I see how it is, and I am sorry.” But all of that has to start with a trust that you are seeking healing and understanding. Maybe it’ll never get to a good place. That happens. The important thing is that it has to start with validating the other person. That’s the one thing you can choose.

My friend, it definitely hurts to hear that you hurt someone. There’s no way around it. And they might think the worst of you for a while. There’s no way around that either. I hope you will navigate through the awkwardness of that pain to make a deeper connection. I hope the other person hears your intention that you are not malicious nor do you have ill will, and that you want to understand how you hurt them. Or, in the end, it might be better off that you both have some room and space. Either way, I hope you will see your friends fully and take them at face value.

— J.S.

Photo from Unsplash

3 thoughts on “I Think I Hurt Someone: How Do I Clear the Air?

  1. I had this happen with an elderly neighbor. I tried to do “a random act of kindness” that made her mad. She didn’t see it as kindness and is total ignoring me. She also will not answer my phone calls. I finally wrote a note apologizing for hurting her, explaining that I was trying to help not hurt her. I am praying somehow God will make a way. It was my intention to share Jesus with her. I know that as much as it depends on me I am to be at peace with everyone. I have done all I can do. I was encouraged to see this post. Evidently this is not an usual thing to have happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry this happened. In addition (or even counterpoint) to what I wrote above, I think we can try our best to make amends—but if the other person cannot ever understand, that’s okay. Maybe they are being unfair or aggressive. Maybe they’re scared or untrusting. Or they are really milking your apology. I can’t guess at her motives, but I think it’s good to have grace for yourself too. It sounds like you really tried.

      Liked by 1 person

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