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seed planting

Question of the Month: If “Hurt People Hurt People” Can Healed People Heal People?

There is a popular saying “hurt people hurt people,” which speaks to the cycle of abuse present in our society. But what I have come to believe is the same is true for the healing community. Those of us who do the work of forgiveness, have the opportunity to break the cycle and create a healing outcome for all. I teach that life’s heartbreaking hits always contain the seeds of life’s soul-making moments.
An example comes from outside the walls of the prison, from a keynote address I gave several years ago to students, faculty, and the community at the University of Oregon in Eugene. During a Q & A, a gentleman, who appeared to be in his late fifties shared, “When I was a young boy, my father regularly abused my sister, and there was nothing I could do as he was a big man and I was a small person. I have lived with this guilt for many years…Not being able to protect my sister. Do you have a suggestion for me as to how I handle this consuming guilt?”
My response was, “Yes, I fully empathize with your predicament as a young person. But now, you are a grown man and as we speak someone else’s sister is being abused. Incest is a huge problem in our society, so you could provide some valuable help to others suffering from your experience. I am happy to introduce you to a nonprofit that works with incest victims.” A light bulb was lit in the man’s mind and spirit and he thanked me profusely for that gift. This is a powerful example of changing behavior from self-imposed guilt into meaningful service.
Likewise, at Terre Haute, one student in his late fifties shared that as a young person he was in and out of prisons most of his adult life. While incarcerated, his rival gang of drug dealers assassinated his father. As I held him in an embrace for several minutes, he broke down and sobbed, still feeling responsible for his father’s death. After he had composed himself with the support of other students, I offered him the insight that there are many young drug dealers out there who have not yet lost their fathers and that sharing his story could inspire them to seek a different path to protect their families. There was an opportunity here to find a meaningful purpose on the outside. He smiled and his aura shifted as we hugged each other.
As mused about above, we all have a shadow side and have likely been harmed or have harmed another. The opportunity for change exists within our individual transformation. Once healed through the power of forgiveness, we can put “right action” (karma) back into society helping others take a better path by learning from our example.
I invite you to take this lesson from my students as well. Turn whatever it is that has previously limited you from living your best life into the seed that starts you on a path of service to better the lives of others because you are now inspired by it.
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