Lindsay shares important lessons we can learn from getting our feelings hurt.
We are all familiar with the five senses—and even the sixth sense—but we also have the gift of another sense that we should be using every day: our ability to be hurt by other people’s behavior. This experience of hurt feelings is an unmistakable visceral sensation, every bit as important as the other senses.
When other people’s behavior makes us feel bad, our tendency is to feel hurt and withdraw. Our chests constrict, our stomachs knot, and digestion stops. This is not a bad thing; it is instead the gift of hurt. The ability to feel hurt is telling us something is going wrong in this interaction, similar to what Gavin deBecker describes in his book, The Gift of Fear, about our innate ability to sense danger. He urges us to trust our instincts to keep ourselves safe. We should do the same thing interpersonally when someone’s behavior is showing us they can be hurtful.
Hurt feelings give us advance warning. We can avoid some future suffering if we pay attention to what bad behavior is telling us up front. Far too often, we try to be hardened to other people’s behavior, proud of not letting things “get to us” and pretending we’re not “wimps” or “delicate flowers” who can be injured by others’ insensitivities.
We think it a badge of maturity to be impervious to slights, rejections, or hurtful remarks. But the truth is that none of us is immune to other people’s behavior, thanks to our emotionally sensitive physiology. Whether we want it or not, our bodies give us constant feedback about how certain people are treating us.
This ability to feel hurt by others is truly a gift to be appreciated. If you listen to this emotional sensitivity when it sounds the alarm, you might save yourself untold trouble later on. Other people’s behavior will always let you know who they are and whether or not they respect you. They give you repeated opportunities to know what you can expect from them and what it’ll be like to be involved with them.
When someone repeatedly hurts your feelings, you can trust your warning system and make a mental note to yourself: “Now you are showing not only who you are, but how you view me.” Their behavior tells you what it will be like to work with them, be in a relationship with them, or simply spend time with them.
Your emotional gift of hurt will reliably alert you to people who don’t consider other people’s feelings. Don’t think you’re overly sensitive when you notice that someone is letting you down in small ways. Just like with movie trailers, their behavior is showing you the coming attractions. Your gift of hurt is offering you that preview if only you’ll take it seriously.
If you give second and third chances to people who hurt your feelings, it’s like hoping you’ll somehow see a different film from the one advertised. You’ll end up with better relationships if you face your hurt feelings and honor them as signs of how you might be treated in the future.
So what happens if you start listening to what your hurt is telling you? Does this mean that you will start cutting ties left and right whenever people say insensitive things? Not at all! Those ties might be important to you, or the person might be having a bad day. Yet the hurt feelings still need to be listened to.
If people care about you, they may even self-correct by apologizing immediately. But even if they don’t notice that they’ve hurt you, kind people will understand as soon as you tell them and they’ll try to repair their misstep. On the other hand, if the person shows little interest in how they made you feel, your gift of hurt should tell you to watch out. If they’re not interested in how you feel, they aren’t really interested in you, period. Good to know early on.
Think of your gift of hurt as a discerning foresight, letting you sample what the future might be like with a certain person. Little hurts early in a relationship are trying to tell you what’s coming later. If taking care with your feelings is not high on someone else’s list, maybe they shouldn’t be high on your list either.
It takes so little effort to care about others’ experiences and such sensitivity goes a long way to keeping everyone feeling their best. It’s not a weakness to dislike being hurt. It’s a self-protective response designed for good energy and sound well being. Pay attention when your emotional sensitivity—your gift of hurt—starts tingling; it may be saving you a lot of future misery.