Did you know that, sometimes, the people who are the most hurt are actually arrogant?
When someone is “hurting” it’s generally assumed that they are innocent. That they experienced something wrong. Something they definitely didn’t deserve. Usually when someone is “hurting” we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they deserve some sympathy or love or encouragement.
This can be true (and often is), but sometimes, people who hurt the most do so because they are actually prideful and arrogant.
I told a girl this once.
I wasn’t being mean. I wasn’t being insensitive. I wasn’t being unfair.
I think we were talking about a break up of some kind she had had several years ago. I listened as I normally do (as we all do when someone is telling us about a prior shitty relationship), preparing for to say things like, “Awe I’m so sorry that happened to you,” “What a jerk,” “You didn’t deserve that,” when something stood out to me.
I noticed something specific in her tone, her description, her recalling of the unfairness, the lies, the hurt.
I noticed what seemed like…shock.
Now, it had been a few years since this break up. I believe this was the first serious relationship this person had ever had. And, of course, our break ups can stay with us a while, affecting us even for the rest of our life. I get that, for sure. But still, what stood out here was actually not how hurt she was, but how shocked she still seemed.
Shocked that she was lied to.
Shocked that she was broken up with.
Shocked that she was treated poorly.
Shocked that he didn’t put her first.
Of course she was hurting, but in a way, she was still confused. Confused that another person could do this to her.
Confused that someone would, could, did, dare do her wrong.
A break up is like a death of sorts, and there’s five stages to grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It was not just this girl, but so many of us who’ve been through bad break ups or divorces, struggle to cope with what happened and walk through these stages. Many of us, years later, are still stuck in stage one—denial. Some (and I would say most) move past it and get stuck in stage 2—anger.
But this girl, this girl was so hurt and just couldn’t understand how someone could mistreat her.
It was almost as if she was more offended than hurt.
More confused than sad.
More shocked than grieved.
So I asked her a question…
“Who are you to not be broken up with?”
She looked at me confused.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I think you’re not healing from this break up because you’re arrogant and you think you’re above being hurt, above being lied to. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to you. You don’t deserve this. That maybe once upon a time you thought life was just going to work out for you according to all your hopes and desires and wishes. That perhaps you have a princess syndrome, and this break up didn’t hurt you as much as it embarrassed you. Embarrassed because on some level you think you deserve perfection, that you were going to bat 1000, but life came in and left a mark, and it’s fucking with your plans.”
(Now, believe me, my tone of voice and expressions and caring and connection make this all work. You’d have to be there to see how this works. I wasn’t being mean. I wanted to see her heal, and to do that, she needed to see something.)
“So again, let me ask you, honestly, look at all your friends and family. Look at the world around you. Do you really think you’re above the suffering of life? Do you really think your prayers and bible studies and good attitude and hard work and high moral character put you on a pedestal? Put a shield around you? Get you favor tokens from On High?”
“No I don’t. But when you put it that way, yah, I guess I do.”
This life, for humans (and even when God became human) has a component to it—suffering. I don’t like it, understand it, or think it’s fair. On most levels it’s not. There is an unfairness to life. It’s built into the code. It’s unescapable. Sadly, some of the best people, who’ve spent their lives making good choices, eventually, inevitably find this out.
Suffering comes for us all.
No matter your family or wealth or education or morality or work ethic or attitude or religion, suffering is unescapable.
For this girl, it showed up through being mistreated in a bad relationship.
For others it happened when they were children and were beaten by parents, mistreated at school, going through divorce, getting fired, getting cancer, losing a loved one…
It happens to all of us, in different ways, to different degrees, at different times.
The arrogant find this hard.
The righteous find this confusing.
The beautiful find it insulting.
But, hopefully, the holy can find it healing.
Of all the things suffering does, it humbles us and connects us. It brings us into a space with our fellow brothers and sisters who—like above, no matter age or race or wealth or religion or status—share in the universal sufferings of life. No one escapes it, not even God.
Our pride and arrogance can push off the cutting, uniting, healing work of suffering, because we don’t walk through the valley with it. We stay in level one—denial. Being confused and shocked and asking question after question about why something happened to us is a form of denial. A form of not letting the experience show you what it could show you.
Suffering sucks, is unfair, and is unavoidable, and so there’s one thing we can do when it shows up—be reminded we’re not above it. And, if it momentarily seems like we’ve avoided it, it’s only a matter of time.
Is that depressing? Sort of. But it’s uniting too. It’s one way death can be a gift. We can’t all share the commonality of money or fame or wealth or love or children or success. We all get varying degrees of these things, and, sometimes, these things can divide us more than they unite us. Sometimes being in love makes others envious. Sometimes making more money makes you a target and isolates you from others. Sometimes being highly educated disconnects you from your fellowman. Life has a myriad of individual blessings that when isolated cause us to separate from one another. But suffering. Suffering is something we all go through. Death knocks on every hearts door eventually, and in that way, is the one true thing we all have in common.
When we suffer, we are united, for we remember that something showed up and broke down all my walls; all the things I thought made me different from others. It tore down my defenses, humbled me, and made me human.
So, who are we to not suffer?
Who are we that things should all work out for us perfectly?
What do we think we deserve?
How do we think we deserve to be treated?
What lofty expectations, what high standards have we set on the world around us, causing us to be confused when we suffer, rather than reminded.
Causing us to be angry, rather than opened?
Causing us to be shocked, rather than humbled?
In what way do we need to heal from past hurts by reminding ourselves, “I’m not above this.” “Shit happens to the best of us.”
Even in the story of God becoming a human, he was despised, afflicted, lied to, betrayed, judged, accused. He suffered and then died. If there’s anything we can take from that story it’s that the most perfect human can’t and doesn’t avoid the sufferings of this life. He wasn’t above them, and neither are you. Godliness doesn’t mean you get a magic protective shield, it means you get to follow in those same footsteps, trusting that suffering plays it’s part, and you’ll have what it takes to get through it, rising again to new life, new strength, new mindsets, new energy, whole, different, and as the story says, a new creation.
Suffering can humble us, unite us, and turn us into new creations.
But we need to get passed the denial; all the ways we think we’re above it all.
We need to move through the anger; all the ways we don’t think we deserve it.
The bargaining; all our justifications for why it occurred and who’s fault it was and our cute attempts to turn back time and find fault or fix things.
The depression; the feelings of helplessness about it all. The stage in the pain where you’re starting to cope with it, but it just doesn’t make sense, and you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
And finally, the acceptance; the place we’re able to just accept what happened by saying “This happened and it hurts.”
We accept what happened with non judgmental observance. Of course, there’s a time for talking about the effects another person had on us—the unfairness, the lies, the responsibility—there’s a time for all that, but there’s another time to just put the pen down, to not chalk up the reasons, to stop explaining to ourselves why it happened, how it happened, who’s fault it was, who’s innocent, who’s guilty—to just drop the whole narrative and be able to say “This happened.”
This is why we can walk through the “valley of the shadow of death.” The whole life experience, in many ways, can be seen as this valley.
And it is a walk.
It is a continuation.
Healing is a process.
“In the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me…you comfort me…you prepare a table before me…surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life.”
Things will and can look up, but sometimes we don’t walk through the valley because we’re staying, by our choice, at the first two levels—denial and anger.
This, above all things, is what I’ve witnessed most in my life with people who are dealing with emotional hurts from their past. Because of the way they view the situation and the person and themselves, they rehearse a narrative that keeps them emotionally stuck at the place of pain, unable to see the situation for what it is, cope with it, accept it, grieve it and find comfort.
And that’s what I want, for everyone.
For people to heal from their past experiences.
And today, in this story, not a story for everyone, was a way in which a girl realized it was her pride and arrogance, her belief that she was above suffering and embarrassment and being mistreated, that kept her stuck unable to accept what happened.
Whatever has happened to you, yes, probably mostly, just like God himself, you didn’t deserve it. But still, it happened.
It shouldn’t have happened. But it did. So, in a way, it was supposed to happen.
Open your arms.
Accept everything that has ever happened to you.
Accept your failures, your wounds, your falls, your betrayals, your lies, all the ways others have let you down, and all the ways you’ve let others down as well, accept it, call it what it is, and, indeed, walk through the valley of death, knowing that goodness and kindness will follow you all the days of your life.