The year: 1986. I was out visiting. Went into Dewayne and Wanda’s* house. Dewayne wasn’t home. To this day I do not know what I said or did. But Wanda got up and walked out of the room crying. I sat there for several minutes. I called her name. I eventually got up and left. I didn’t know what to do. I had somehow hurt her. To this day I don’t know what I said. It grieves me even now.
The year: 1983. Sunday morning Bible class, Kossuth, MS. Our best Bible student in the congregation was old brother Chris. He was the church treasurer and a successful farmer. He’d raised three sons who all preached the gospel. We used a fill in the blank study book and I’d been told to just go around the room and let people answer questions from the book and make any comments about the text or questions as I taught. After several months I decided to change it up and started on the other side of the classroom. When it came brother Chris’s time, he simply said: “I pass.” His wife called me that afternoon. Brother Chris could not read and he was embarrassed. I did not know. I had hurt him. I still feel a little sick when I think about how I hurt him.
The year: 2010. My 501st blog post titled Done. I said one thing, I meant another. I was at fault. I heard from a number of people who liked the article - they posted their accolades in the comment section. But I also heard from three others - one a friend from 1980, the other two I’ve not known as long but I love. I had hurt them. My head swam and my heart sunk.
I seem to be "better" at this than most. I've hurt brothers and sisters, elders and deacons, teachers and volunteers, parents and siblings. I've hurt my wife and my kids. I've hurt people I love deeply and people I barely know.
Through the years I have hurt others. Sometimes they have told me sometimes others have. Most often I imagine I never know when I hurt another. As God is my witness, I do not like hurting others. I love people and want to encourage and help them. I suppose I could say “hurting people goes along with the territory. When you make your living with these many words, it is a land-mine waiting for your misstep.” While true, that is no excuse for stepping on the heart of another or stealing their joy, or “piling on” in the midst of pain they already feel. Some will surely say that some folks are just fragile. And that, too, is true. But shouldn’t that realization make us more cautious and caring, for we are all fragile in some area.
As a dear friend reminded me: "I suppose James was right" (see James 3:2).
In my efforts to convict and change people I will continue to hurt people. I do not easily accept this fact.
If I hurt you or have hurt you and I know it, I have already tried to make it right. I have never hurt someone and known it and not tried to correct it. If I have hurt you (and I’m sure some of you exist) and I don’t know it, please accept my apology and help me make it right. I hope this is not just a salve for my conscious - in my heart I am sincere in this. Thank you for loving me and forgiving me when I have hurt you.
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all...” (2 Timothy 2:24). "Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; ...He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out..." (Mattthew 12:15-20).
Dear Father, thank you for being kind to all, help me to be like you. Help me never to be or become mean. Through Jesus, who is servant of all, Amen.”
*The names in this article have been changed.