Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
-Luke 7:47 (NIV)
I was upset. I had been hurt by someone, and I felt aggrieved. The matter was not going to be rectified, and this upset me more.
I went to God with my frustration and wondered why there wouldn’t be justice with the matter. Why was I continually hurt by this?
During the course of praying, the process flipped. “How many people have I hurt in my life?” An interesting prompting from God.
It started out as a curiosity. How many people could I list that I had hurt throughout my life? It couldn’t be that many, could it?
There are some people that came to mind right away. I listed them, but those were not surprises. As I continued to list people, more people came to mind.
Random memories came to the forefront as I remembered situations where I hurt someone. Intentional. Unintentional. Malice. Ignorance. It didn’t matter what was behind it. If I hurt someone I wrote down their name.
As I was writing names down I would often pause. I reflected on how I had hurt an individual, and hoped they were okay.
I remembered stealing from a classmate in second grade. I remembered making fun of a classmate in third grade because they had a disability. I remembered using a racial epithet toward a classmate in the third grade. I remembered making fun of someone’s sexuality in elementary school.
There were the girls I dated where I was only concerned about satisfying my selfish desires. There were the guys I considered myself better than and I would embarrass them when given the opportunity.
As a missionary. As a pastor. As a leader. I could think of the people I had hurt all while representing God. I prayed my mistakes, my sin, had not adversely affected their faith.
I wrestled writing down some of the names because they had hurt me deeply. What I had done to them paled in comparison to what they did to me. It didn’t matter. I wrote their names down because I had hurt them in some way.
In one day, I wrote down over 100 names of individuals I had hurt. It was sobering. I repented of a lot of things I had forgotten I had done. I prayed for a number of people I had not thought about in quite some time. I find myself continuing to pray for them. While it is easy to think of the people that have hurt us, and I can rattle off the names of those who were quite sinister to me, for me it was easy not to consider all the individuals I had hurt.
The old adage is true, hurt people hurt people. We forget how we continue the cycle of violence. I vividly recall the bully who tormented me, but I push away the memories of those I hurt. I want to stop the cycle of violence.
It was in dealing with my addiction that I understood the depths of my pain, and the depths of how I hurt others. This process of listing people I had hurt hammered home my own sin. I keep the list with me. It prompts me to pray more for others, to be mindful of others’ stories/pain they may be dealing with, to examine justly my own being (past and present) so I can respond in a Christlike way, and to always love and forgive.
The list of names covers my entire life. I still add to the list when I think of someone. The longer I was a Christian, especially from when I dealt with my addiction, the less people I hurt. My hope is not to add anymore to the list at some point. Some of the individuals I have hurt I have tried to reach out to. Some think it was no big deal. Some are appreciative of the apology. Some want nothing to do with me. I understand that response. I keep praying.
Hurt people hurt people, but I believe in the opposite as well.
We love because he first loved us.
-1 John 4:19 (ESV)
Loved people love people. When we grasp the depths of how much we are loved, forgiven, redeemed, we can extend that to others.
(The above names are stand-ins for names off of my list. They are the most popular baby names from 2015.)