People who hurt others are suffering their own internal hurt. When we struggle, we do the best we can with the tools we have to make it through.
There is someone in my life who has a pattern of doing cruel things, giving a tearful apology and then leveling up on their cruelty. I have learned this person does this to several people without discrimination. I’m not sure if this makes me feel better or worse. On the one hand, I’m glad it’s not personal. On the other hand, I really don’t want anyone else to hurt like I have.
At our most basic instinct, we are trying to survive. I spent the past few days soul searching for how I could practice empathy towards someone who was actively hurting me. It was easier to forgive the people from my past, because for the most part they are no longer a substantial part of my life.
Then it came to me that this person who is currently hurting me is nothing more than a wounded animal. A wounded animal is in constant fear and hyper vigilant. Everything is perceived as a threat. A wounded animal feels defenseless and broken. A wounded animal often attacks when others go near it.
There are two things you can do when you come across a wounded animal: Help it or leave it be. I have tried to help this wounded animal and keep getting bitten. Now it is time for me to walk away, allowing nature to take its course, whatever that will be.
I cannot continue to stress, lose sleep, or have anxiety over the fate of this animal. I cannot continue to risk my own safety to keep attempting to care for this wounded animal.
Several times in my life, I too have been a wounded animal. I am here today at this point in my recovery because I did what I had to in order to heal. I stopped attacking those who reached out to me. I accepted responsibility for the role I played in getting wounded.
Not everyone can do that. That is the key to my empathy—realizing not all wounded animals can be saved or even want to be saved. That is their choice to make and not mine. As much as I once wanted to help this wounded animal, I can no longer be a part of this destructive cycle.