“There are two major things I cannot seem to overcome. I’m too wounded to love … and I’m too wounded to love.”
I saw the puzzled look on her mentor’s face as she tilted her head to understand what she had heard from a very broken hearted woman.
She continued: “I’m too wounded by life, by my history for my husband to be able or willing to love me. And I’m so wounded by the things he has done and said that I may not be capable of loving again.”
It was clearly not a plea for sympathy, or just a way to get attention. It was the desperate cry from a place of deep wounding.
He had told her in a burst of anger that she was exactly like his ex-wife. She whispered with a broken voice: “Something in my broke.” After a moment of empathetic and compassionate silence, her mentor tenderly inquired, “What has he shared about his ex-wife that made it so terribly devastating to you?“
In unquenchable sobs, barely able to catch her breath, words spilled out from a place of devastation: “That she was unfaithful, that she was mean, that she was a liar, that she stole from the family business, that she turned their children against him,” … And there were more words that I could not decipher from the groans of brokenness pouring out of her spirit. “Then I broke down, and I could see by the expression on his face that he believed I was just too wounded to love.”
At that moment, I was reminded of something I had heard Maya Angelou say on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey. She had commented on how that although true love erupts our wounds, we are never so wounded that we are unlovable. And that nothing that anyone had done or said, should be allowed to keep us from loving again.
Powerful words and such great truths. It goes right in concert with what Drs. Harville and Helen Hunt Hendrix teach in Imago Relationship Therapy. That one of the deep innate attractions to another human being is based on their ability to tap into our wounds. Of course, this occurs on an unconscious level. But they teach that when a couple is truly devoted and committed, not only to the growth of the relationship and their own personal growth, but also to the growth of their partner, there is a beautiful opportunity for a healing partnership.
The points made in the previous two paragraphs are worthy of weeks of blogs. However, my focus this week is the seven things you must do if you have wounded someone you love. Whether the wounding occurred accidentally or purposely, does not, effect the seven things that must be done to heal the person wounded and to restore damage done to the relationship.
If your love is real, if your love is true, this is what you simply must do when you have wounded someone you love.
1. Do not allow your pride to convince you to ignore what you’ve done. Go back and acknowledge what you did to wound the one you love.
When we have done something to wound someone we love, we automatically get a sense of guilt and shame. The guilt and/or shame is such an uncomfortable thing that we are all prone to soothe it by having a dialogue in our head with such things such as:
· Well, what I did or said wasn’t that bad
· I only did it because he or she did _____________
· I only did it in reaction to what they did or said
You are greater than that! Not only will owning it increase their respect and likelihood of forgiveness, you will also feel better about yourself.
Take a moment if you need it, to assess what you did, and continue your assessment until you feel truly remorseful for how it must have felt to them. Then go back and say to them, “When I did this (state specifically what you did or said), I know it must have been very painful to you.”
If you can do that from a truly remorseful heart, it will cover a multitude of sins! I know you can, so please do it!
2. Do not allow guilt and shame to cause you to displace blame. Own up to what you did.
As I mentioned above, when we are overcome with guilt and shame about what we’ve done, we are at great risk of blaming. Blaming your stress at work. Blaming the financial stress, you’re under. Blaming what the other person did or said.
Rest assured that displacing blame will definitely only make matters worse. Owning your behavior (and/or words) is something all great leaders learn to do, but no one ever said that it would be easy.
We live in an environment where taking personal responsibility is a lost art. The truth is when we take personal responsibility for our actions, and especially when it’s difficult, we grow in character.
Please understand that I’m not insinuating that the other person had no role in the interaction. Likely there are things they need to do to learn and grow as well.
But nothing that anyone does is deserving of being wounded. Any and all interactions until the wounding is healed, should not be focused on the role of the other person. The focus should be on how, what you did, wounded them. And on what you need, to do, in order, to make it right.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to ask them how it caused them to feel and listen until your heart is touched. Invite them to speak with you about it and then reflect back what you’ve heard. Not your interpretation, not word for word, but a heartfelt summary. Then ask if there’s more.
Continue to do that until they indicate that they believe you have heard them and have a greater understanding of how they feel.
Your next step is to validate. You validate by using the stem sentence: “After listening to all that you have shared, it makes sense to me that ______. (Fill in the blank with some new thing or things that you have come to understand by listening to them).
Finally, empathize by beginning with this sentence stem: “Having listened to everything you shared, you must feel _______.” (Fill in the blank by guessing how they felt). You may be right on or you might or could be incorrect. But them knowing you are trying to imagine how they felt invites very powerful healing.
4. Do not leave them alone for their hearts to bleed out. Hold of them, or at least sit with them.
Usually when we wound someone we love, the natural inclination is to get far away from what we’ve done and the person we wounded. And that’s the worst choice we could possibly make.
When I use the phrase “Leaving someone to bleed out,” make note that the bleeding out is different for each individual.
For some it’s sobbing, for some it is tears. For some it’s a total shut down and perhaps even dissociation (the other person staring off with a blank stare, as if they are not even present in their own body).
Sit with them. Hold them if they will let you. Hold their hand if they will allow that. Sit as closely as they will allow.
No fidgeting. No checking your cell phone. No sighs. Just a quiet presence. They need your presence in order to heal.
5. Do not try to fix it by giving advice. Ask what they need.
When we feel horrible about what we’ve done when we’ve wounded someone we love, there’s this inherent need to “fix it.“ However, it’s the last thing that the wounded person needs.
I would even go further out on a limb and say that the need to “fix it” is usually to make yourself feel better more than anything else.
The truth is, that the only way for the wounded one to be healed is not with quick answers. It comes with consistent care and concern about what you’ve done, along with, ownership of it.
In those moments we jump into assuming. And I know that you know what the breakdown of those words is: it makes an “*ss” out of “u” and “me.”
Don’t assume what the other person wants and needs in their healing process. Ask them.
I’ve learned if I don’t spell this out, people do a very poor job with this.
Here is what is not healing nor helpful:
· What the hell do you want me to do?
· How long is it gonna be before you get over this?
· How on earth am I supposed to know what to do?
· Why can’t we just move on?
That is absolutely not what I’m speaking of.
Here is an appropriate and healthy way to ask: “I know you are terribly hurt and I would like to help in the healing process. What can I do for you to show my true regret and help?“
I know it’s not easy. But you can do this! You failed Mind Reading 101, as we all did. Ask!
6. Do not let yourself off the hook. Find the root of your problem, and assure the one you wounded that you are addressing it.
No matter how many mistakes the other person may have made in the interaction where you ended up wounding them, none of this should ever allow anyone’s actions to turn us into someone who we would never want to be.
I know many of my readers personally, but even if I have not yet met you, you would not be reading this if you were a person who desired to wound those you love. I know you are greater than that.
And yet there is something in you that led you to that. Even if it’s a rare occurrence, do not let this growth opportunity slip by you.
Spend some time figuring out what got triggered in you that caused you to lash out in a way that wounded someone you love. Don’t allow yourself to write it off as a “rare occurrence.” Or a “natural reaction to what the other person did.”
Take a little deeper look into what triggered you. Then do whatever healing work is necessary. If you need help, find a coach or a mentor a workshop or whatever you need.
One of the greatest healing things that you can do for the one you wounded is to tell them that you are taking a serious look at what brought you to the place that you would do such a thing.
And that you are determined to do whatever healing work is necessary to ensure that it does not occur again. That is precisely what great leaders do.
And if you aren’t already a great leader, I know you are on your way. So adopt that policy and embrace that kind of growth! Then go share it with the one you wounded.
7. Don’t assume an apology makes them OK. Check back in on their healing process until true and complete healing occurs.
When someone has been wounded, don’t embrace the old myth that is nothing more than a lie: “Time heals all wounds.“ Time does not heal all wounds.
Ignoring it and giving it time does nothing to restore your relationship. As a matter of fact, the more time that you allow to pass without checking in on how they’re doing, the more difficult the restoration process in the relationship will require.
It’s hard to check back in because we are just wanting it to go away. But you simply must check back in and keep doing so, until, total healing and restoration has occurred.
I began the blog with the story of a deeply wounded woman that I had witnessed. It’s not only women who get wounded. Men get wounded too.
My hope and prayer is that you will look back to recent history or even further, to note whom you’ve wounded. It’s not too late to go back and help heal the wound. It’s truly what healing partners do for one another. It’s a road that calls us to higher places, but it also is a place where you will encounter great leaders and people of great character.
I would like to invite you there. Become a healing partner and let’s not leave even one alone, unhealed, that’s been wounded!