Hard Conversations: How to Deal with Hurt Feelings
At some time in our lives, we’ve gotten our feelings hurt. But, as we get older, it gets harder to deal with hurt feelings.
When we were kids on the playground, we could simply say, “Hey! That hurt my feelings!” Maybe a teacher mediated, but all in all, dealing with hurt feelings was pretty simple.
As adults, it seems harder.
For one, we tend to think getting our feelings hurt is childish. It’s not.
We tend to think telling someone will be uncomfortable and awkward. It may be.
But if the hurt is big enough, these feelings must be addressed. If not, relationships fracture and bitterness takes root.
Use this as a guide the next time someone hurts your feelings.
What NOT To Do
If we’re being honest, after the playground years, most of us don’t really know how to handle hurt feelings without a teacher’s help. As a result, we deal with hurt feelings in a lot of unhelpful ways.
I love this illustration from Chuck Swindoll’s ministry.
Insight for Living Ministries explains, “Imagine all the [hurt] feelings […] as a big, heavy ball. Now that you have this emotional ball, what can you do with it? Well, you could try to swallow it (repress it), but that might make you emotionally or physically ill. You could fling it at someone else (vent it), but that would hurt your other friendships. You could play catch with it by tossing it back and forth with someone you trust (express it). Talking about hurt feelings is better than not talking about them. But in the end, you’ll still go home carrying this wretched ball.”
When we don’t properly deal with hurt feelings, we keep carrying them around or doing more damage.
Here is what NOT to do when you are dealing with hurt feelings.
- Repress: Many people repress hurt feelings. The problem is that they repress and repress and repress…until they explode.
- Vent: I know many Christians who turn to venting to deal with hurt feelings. They may share these hurts in a prayer group or with a prayer partner. But even so, if they are venting rather than truly addressing the issue with the offender privately, they aren’t dealing with it productively.
- Act Out: Sometimes hurt feelings lead to hurtful behaviors. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Hurt people hurt people.” It’s true, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Avenge: Some people take matters into their own hands. They do what they can to bring pain to the one who hurt them.
- Shame Publicly: There are also those who go to social media to blast the offender rather than dealing with the matter privately.
Now that we’ve got the “do nots” out of the way, let’s talk about how you should deal with hurt feelings.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
To begin, you need to acknowledge your hurt feelings. Recognize what those feelings are and ask yourself why they hurt you so deeply.
This is an important step because too often we try to ignore those hurts and then we react in ways that are not helpful. This helps us identify why we are hurting, which will help us know how to confront the issue.
Insight for Living Ministries suggests, “Catalogue your heartache, and don’t stop with the feelings you have regarding your friend. Include feelings toward others who have hurt you. You may be surprised at the common threads that run through your relationships. As you ponder your list, remember that the Lord cares about your feelings.”
Control Your Actions
It’s important to understand that God created us to have feelings and emotions.
Feeling angry isn’t sinful, but reacting in anger is.
Don’t allow your frustration to make you violent toward anyone, whether it be in your mind, your mouth, or your actions.
Be angry and do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27
Bring Your Hurts to the Lord
Along the way, take your hurts to the Lord.
He cares about you and your feelings. Jesus experienced hurts while He lived on earth as his friends betrayed him. He understands sorrow, loss, anger, and betrayal.
There is no shame in sharing your heart with Him.
Plus, it is virtually impossible to deal with hurt feelings, forgiveness, and reconciliation without God’s help. We named this series “Hard Conversations” for a reason – these conversations are hard!
Remember the Spiritual Identity of the Offender
When we are hurting, it’s easy to see the “offender” as “other.”
When we stop viewing them as a brother or sister in Christ, we can cross into dangerous territory where we say or act in ways that don’t edify Christ.
Here’s your reminder – we are all sinners saved by Christ, and even Christians hurt people’s feelings. Some of the worst hurt feelings happen in churches.
When you are tempted to say or do things to the offender, remind yourself that he or she is also a beloved child of God. The one you think is your enemy is not actually your enemy (Ephesians 6:12-13).
Return Evil with Good
Jesus gave clear advice on how to deal with those who hurt you.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” - Luke 6:27-36
Talk to the Offender
Healing and reconciliation can’t happen if you don’t address the issue with the offender.
Fortunately, the Bible provides instruction on how to handle these sorts of confrontations. One directive is to have this conversation in private.
In Matthew 18:15, Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”
[See Also: Seven Tips for Handling Hard Conversations]
In your conversation with the one who has offended you, always be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19-20).
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” - Colossians 3:13
Let’s go back to the playground.
How often do kids hurt one another’s feelings and then play together again peacefully? It happens all the time!
But, as adults, we tend to hold on to our hurt feelings. Instead, we need to make every effort to forgive the person who forgave us, so that we can work alongside each other in our common mission once again.
This is what sets us apart as Christ followers.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:31-32