Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hurtful versus Harmful

“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.” Ephesians 4:25 (MSG)

Someone recently made the comment, “We should not make our choices or decisions based on the hurt of others.”  Due to what I was currently going through, I struggled with this comment.  It felt like truth, but then again, it didn’t.  I had to take it to the throne and figure out its truth in my life.  I felt that I was being hurt by the decisions of another and I was struggling with sorting out which part was mine to own; mine to make an issue of; or mine to disregard.  God is so awesome because in the midst of this, I was also facilitating a group study on Boundaries, the book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan, 3/1/2002.  Now let me say that I’m not facilitating this study because I know what I’m doing, I’m facilitating because God is teaching me to incorporate more of this truth into my own daily life.

There is a natural law of sowing and reaping (Gal 6:7-8).  One way boundaries are broken in adult relationships is when we choose to reap the consequences for others’ decisions or, on the other end of the spectrum, when we make decisions that force others to reap our consequences.  I’m talking about adult relationships, not parent and young child relationships.  Co-dependency occurs when we willingly continue an unhealthy relationship with someone who persists in making decisions which place us in harm’s path – this doesn’t specifically mean physical danger, but could simply mean harm to our hearts, to our bank accounts, our relationships with family and friends, our ministry, our reputation, etc.  When you are continually being placed in the position of reaping someone else’s consequences, you must look at what needs to change in order to make that relationship healthier.

Boundaries, Ibid., discusses the difference between hurtful versus harmful.  “It would be cruel to make decisions without taking someone else’s feelings into consideration.”  However, the concept went on to reflect that you must weigh the difference between hurtful and harmful.  The example given was about teeth. (How funny is that?)  It states that eating sugar is not hurtful (at that moment – yummy), but it is harmful (in the long run - cavity).  Whereas, going to the dentist can be hurtful (in the moment – ouch), but it is not harmful (in the long run – fix cavity).


In another example, Boundaries, Ibid., talks about two business partners.  One partner is making poor decisions that are affecting the company’s overall health.  Partner A (let’s call him Alan) did not want to confront Partner B (let’s call him Bill) because Alan didn’t want to hurt Bill’s feelings.  However, Bill’s choices and decisions were affecting not only Alan, but the overall health of the whole corporation. Therefore, Bill’s choices and decisions were HARMFUL versus just HURTFUL to Alan.  Alan was living under the consequences of Bill’s decisions.  If Alan were to continue to allow Bill to move forward in his poor choices and decision making without bringing it to his attention, then Alan would continue to reap Bill’s consequences and that would be co-dependent.  Once Alan confronts Bill, then Bill can choose to make changes or not.  If Bill chooses to not make changes, then Alan must make the difficult decision of how to move forward to protect both the business as well as himself.

Sometimes it’s easy to see right versus wrong or good versus bad, but it can be more difficult when it’s not so black and white.  During those times that are more ambiguous, you must reflect on whether or not you simply have hurt feelings that could be coming through your own broken filter, or if you are truly being harmed.  When making the decision about whether or not to address something, ask yourself, “Am I reaping the consequences of someone else’s choices and decisions?”  In either case, biblically (Eph. 4:25) we should let others know when we are hurt.  How we choose to allow this relationship to continue to affect our lives moving forward, however, may then shift based on the differentiation of hurt versus harm and whether we are reaping the consequences of that other person’s choices and decisions.     

The NIV Stewardship Study Bible, Zondervan, 3/15/2010, states in the commentary, “A person’s true failures constitute either a proving ground for renewal or a landfill for a wasted life.”  I am taking the situation that is currently going on in my life and attempting to see how God wants to use it for His glory and for mybest.  I’m looking toward what He wants to teach me and how He wants to grow me.  I’m specifically praying for wisdom (He promised to give that if we ask for it – James 1:5) and to view my situation through His eyes and not my broken filter.  I’m trying to be open and honest, not only with those that have hurt or harmed me (once I decipher which that is), but also with myself and whatpart I play in this whole thing – I don’t want to overlook the log that may be in my eye as I may have hurt or harmed others as well without even realizing it.  I also don’t want to allow Satan to destroy something that is precious to me because I can’t see past my own wounds.  However, I also want to protect myself from harm.  God says that our best is His plan (Jer. 29:11).  With all of our brokenness, we can sometimes get in the way of our own growth and wellbeing.  I have to trust that what I’m going through is necessary in order to mold me into the vessel that He designed me to be.  But I also need to truly consider what it is that He desires to teach me and put it into practice in order to become that proving ground for renewal.


Lori Kennedy

1 comment:

Debbie Casey said...

Great insight Lori. Thanks so much!