I'm no stranger to childhood wounds or pain. Growing up with two addicted parents, abuse, and in-and-out of foster homes didn't leave much room for warm and fuzzy feelings. For most of my twenties, I relived those childhood wounds in the form of bad decisions, bad relationships, and even wounding the people around me. But I took my wounds to the Lord and asked Him to heal me. Through years of sitting with the Lord and allowing Him to heal those old wounds, I became a person who brings healing rather than pain to those around me. Mostly. Sometimes I'm still human and get it wrong.
Now, maybe because of my past or the work I have done to get to the present, I have become very sensitive to the woundedness of others. I will quickly distance myself if a person wounds all over me.
I believe there is a place for healing, grace, love, and patience when people are hurting, but I tend to draw the line when that place becomes hostile or unsafe. This has cost me friendships, jobs, and environments, but it has afforded me peace, safety, belonging, and love.
Boundaries can be challenging to navigate, especially when it comes to people you love. So I wanted to write a few ways to help identify if someone is wounding all over you and what you can do about it.
They lash out. People who are wounded will lash out at you. This may take the form of criticism, snide remarks, accusing, belittling, or blowing up on you for seemingly no reason. The best thing to do: walk away or stay silent. The bible says we become a fool when we answer a fool. Don't be foolish.
They blame. People who are wounded tend to refuse to take responsibility. They may blame you or everyone else, but there is little ability to take ownership of their own actions or part. Healthy people can own their mistakes and take responsibility for how to improve or do differently. How to get out of this: own your part and leave the rest.
They make it about them. I once had a "friend" show up to my birthday party and began complaining about how much of an inconvenience it was to get there and how horrible her day was. Well, it was my party and I would cry if I wanted to. I didn't cry, but I'm no longer friends with her either. What to do: Ditch the one-uppers, the party-stealers, and those who are not capable of celebrating YOU when it's your turn to be celebrated.
They hate boundaries. When you set a standard they will try to cross the line, if they don't like the standard they may 1-lash out, 2-blame, 3-make it about them. You get the point, boundaries are a surefire way to see the heart of a person. What to do: know your boundaries and stick to them.
They lack empathy. Wounded people usually haven't learned how to forgive themselves or self-love, so it's no surprise when they aren't able to offer you those things. What to do: be kind, offer love and empathy. But know your audience. Know that this person will probably not be able to offer you emotional support when you are going through something difficult.
Common denominator. If one, two, three, or more people have the same feedback about this person, that gives you feedback that this person is the common denominator. Don't try to be the hero, just accept who they are and where they are in life.
You feel unsafe. Sometimes you might not be able to identify what or if this person is doing something to wound you, but you just feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or unloved when you are with them. Pay attention to how you feel when you are around them, listen to those feelings, and adjust your time with that person if you need to.
As Christians we are called to love and sometimes love can be a confusing thing to navigate when it's a minefield of woundedness. The best thing you can offer anyone is a healthy version of yourself. Getting healthy requires work, self-inventory, healing, time with God, and learning what God's love is really about. Staying healthy requires learning to allow other people to walk through their own journey of healing and not letting them wound all over you in the process. You wouldn't make yourself sick just because someone else was sick; don't wound yourself just because someone else is wounded. Guard your heart and learn to love unsafe people from a distance that keeps you safe.