“Hurt people hurt people,” my mother says.
And I repeat those words, let them roll around in my mouth. They have a funny taste, dull, like stale bread, or like a can of pop gone flat.
I want to spit them out.
We’re talking about relationships. About the fact that love has become more of a game than how it used to be. More of mixed signals and loose definitions than dates and legitimate labels. More of mistrust and vengeful behavior than forgiveness and honest conversation.
What she means is that those who have been wounded in a past relationship are so quick, nowadays, to project that anger, that bitterness, that insecurity onto the next person they fall in love with.
They’re afraid, so they let that fear take over.
They’re hurting, so they make their new partner feel that hurt alongside them.
It’s unfair. It’s disheartening.
But I think, most of all, that it’s sad, because my mother might be right.
For some reason, we let our past hurt seep into our pores, soak into our new relationships, and start to drown us altogether.
We let ourselves be defined by the ways we’ve been treated wrongly and we put up walls in hopes to never be burned again. All understandable, at first. But eventually you have to chip away at that tough exterior.
Eventually you have to learn to let people back in.
Eventually you have to realize that people are not all the same. And not everyone is going to hurt you the way you once were hurt.
You have to let go.
You have to forgive.
And give your new love a real chance.
Hurt people hurt people.
It’s true, isn’t it? That we’re terrified to give away our hearts again after we’ve been treated wrongly. That vulnerability is seen as such a negative. That it’s better to be safe than let someone rip our heart out and stomp on it.
That it’s better to hurt than to be hurt.
But what kind of life is that? Always looking backwards, weapon outstretched, on edge for the next time you’re treated a little less than you deserve.
It’s a stressful life. A sad life. A life that isn’t really being lived because you’re always on guard.
We hurt people because we imagine every scenario will be just as bad as the time we were burned. But it won’t.
People will love us, people will heal us, and more importantly, we will heal ourselves.
We will move forward into more beautiful things and we will leave the past behind, to the point that one day we will look back and smile, forgive, and be thankful, even, for the lessons it has given us.
One day, we won’t be defined by our pain, won’t identify as ‘hurt people.’
We will find clarity and calm, and we’ll learn to love again, in a way that’s much more honest and vulnerable than the first.
So maybe we’ve been wrong all this time when we thought we had to be timid, when we thought we had to be bitter, when we thought we had to carry our past hurts and relationship mistakes behind us, to remind us of the pain in hopes of never feeling it again.
Maybe we were wrong when we thought we had to be people that hurt, instead of people that are hurting.
Because there’s no healing in that. We can’t keep ourselves from feeling pain, because the honest truth is that we probably will feel pain again. We’ll probably get broken again, too, somewhere along the road. But this is the risk we willingly take in love. A beautiful risk.
And without risk, there is no reward.
Without letting go and leaning into love, we’ll never discover how wonderful it can be. We’ll never see the freedom of releasing our tight grip on the past. We’ll never find the person who mends our broken pieces, who makes us feel like we were never less than whole.
And we deserve to find that.