Often times in our brokenness we spend so much time looking for someone to blame. There may really be a person at the root of our pain. As a teenager, I was raped. The only person to blame for my brokenness in that situation was the rapist. I had a counselor tell me that I had a part to play in the situation. In a way, she was right, in that I should never gotten in a car alone with someone I didn’t really know. He was known to me through friends, but as far as fault goes, that is where my responsibility ended. There was nothing that I could have done that would have made rape my fault. I know that he has a line of victims and now even an attempted murder charge, but I don’t know what is behind his behavior.
Many times we make an assumption about the intent of the one who we hold responsible for our in our brokenness. We rarely have all the facts, especially when we make assumptions about the motives of another person’s behaviors. Behaviors are factual, we can see them with our eyes. The behaviors that hurt us are factual, and can not be changed; if we can learn factors that led to a person’s behavior we can seek to understand what led to the behavior that hurt us.
Let’s say that I am not be rude and insensitive to you. I can lie and say I wasn’t, but we both know the behavior is factual. Nothing can change the way I already behaved towards you.
People who knew me as a teenager would say that is who I am. It was very characteristic of my behavior for a long period of my life. I was spitefully mean. What people would not have known is that I was hurting. I didn’t have the words to express what was going on inside of me, and the mask I wore was only taken out on those weaker than me.
There is a saying that hurting people hurt people. Despite knowing that, there is still a slow response to help those who are hurting so much that anyone can be their target. Even trained professionals are more likely to back away from those with ugly behaviors, because hurting people are just difficult to be around.
On the other side of healing, someone who currently knows me well, would know that something else might be going on in my life, because that is no longer me. I do not intentionally hurt others. I am not rude. I am compassionate. I am kind. I help, I don’t try to hurt. Yet there are times, when old patterns come out. There are times where my defenses are down, and hurt does come out. It is not my intention; usually if that side of me comes out I am quick to take responsibility and apologize.
Yet, another side of my personality is frankness. I am not someone who likes to dance around a subject and if something bothers me, I will just say it. To some, I may seem insensitive and rude. If someone takes my frankness to heart, the result may be a small piece of brokenness. Because I was being myself, I am not going to think anything about the comment unless it is brought to my attention. If I don’t know how it made another fell, I am not going to apologize because being rude and insensitive was not my intention, I wasn’t acting from a place of hurt, but from a place of security.
This is just a small example of how we can read or misread others intentions. We can not make an assumption on the intent of another’s behavior. When we do we compound our brokenness because our focus will grow the intention into something much bigger than it likely ever was.
However, I have learned something that is even more powerful than trying to learn the intent of someone else’s behavior. That lesson is to give them the benefit of the doubt. Very rarely can someone who doesn’t know me really break me. If someone is close enough to hurt me, I have to hope that they have a heart that would not intentionally do so.
When I can pause long enough to consider that someone was not intentionally trying to hurt me, I can begin to consider what might have brought them to the point of their action. When I give someone else the benefit of the doubt, I can stop focusing on my own hurt and open my eyes of compassion to how someone else is hurting. I can choose to focus on the person I blame for my brokenness or I can make it my intent to give them grace in their brokenness. I can offer the same grace to another that Christ offered me. If I can keep my focus off me long enough, the brokenness can begin to heal.