The Pain of Change

I recently read a quote from Richard Rohr who said, “Hurt people, hurt people.” When you first look at this it looks kind of strange. It almost seems like he’s saying we should hurt people. But if you pay close attention, I think you’ll realize that he’s saying people who are hurt will hurt other people because they’re hurting. The pain they feel—a lot of which is horrific and unbearable—becomes the driving force for why some people cause the harm they do to others and why some cause harm to themselves. Alcoholism, physical abuse, addictions, I see all these things coming out from the pain of the things people experience. I am in no way excusing negative behavior. I believe we must be responsible for our actions and try to act accordingly but I think we can have a better perspective on why people hurt others if we see past what they are doing to see why they do it.

But pain is not the only reason people hurt each other. I think the other big reason is fear. When people are afraid, they try to protect themselves by going into fight or flight mode. People who chose the fight response lash out at those around them, quite often causing damage in their relationships and sometimes to others without meaning to. People who chose the flight option when afraid run away from or avoid those things that cause them pain or make them uncomfortable. I think recognizing what we are afraid of and moving beyond fight or flight to a place of seeing the situation as it is without letting our emotions get the better of us is the better option. It’s harder to do but in the long run, I see it as a more Jesus like perspective.

Why am I talking about what seems to be a lesson in pop psychology? Right now, the world is changing. People are speaking out about injustice. People are dividing up along political lines. People are protesting, counter protesting, meeting violence with violence whether in the body or the spirit. People are not only at war with one another but with themselves. People are hurt, scared, and acting out accordingly. They are turning to escapisms (alcohol, drugs, social media, binge watching TV, etc.) to avoid the troubles of the world. People are withdrawing into their homes and away from their friends and families to avoid confrontation. People are running out or running to their smartphones and computers to protest and counter protest, attack and counterattack. In the process, no one is hearing the pain and fear behind the voices being raised. We are just fighting what we think is the good fight for our side, whatever side that is.

But what if we stopped? What if we turned off the news, put away social media? What if we listened to those we disagree with—actively and without a spirit of defensiveness? What if we quit thinking about what we might win or lose an argument, or get hurt? What if we stopped looking at who was on whose side and assumed for the sake of argument that were all on the same side, that the goal was to create a world where everyone had what they needed no one went without what they needed for their mind, soul, or spirit? What if we lived for each other instead of against each other’s ideas? Sound a little too utopian, a little too pie in the sky? Already thinking of exceptions for why it won’t work? Consider this:

  • Paul says where the gospel is concerned there is no Jew or Greek only those who believe in the Way of Jesus (Romans 10).
  • Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount illustrated the kingdom of God as a place that was socially and economically topsy turvy to the Roman world (and the modern Western world). (Matthew 5-7)
  • The Prophet Micah says that true worshipers do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6)

What am I saying? I’m saying that we are doing life wrong. We are doing faith wrong. We are acting out of our hurt and our fear and we are hurting people and creating a fearful world around us. It is time to stop. For the follower of Jesus, there is no political party, there is the Kingdom; there is no them, there is all of us; there is no way forward unless we choose to go together. How do we start? Start by learning to let go of hate, fear, division, and pain and embrace love, courage, unity, and healing.

Easy to do? No.

The right thing to do? I believe so.

Worth it? For the sake of the kingdom, absolutely.

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