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4 Reasons Why Hurt People Hurt People (and What to Do When it Happens to You!)

Hurt people do indeed hurt people – but why? And what do you do when someone hurts you?

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"Hurt people hurt people.” It’s a common phrase that’s meant to placate us when we’re on the receiving end of someone’s damaging words and actions. But do you ever feel like it’s become a passive way to dismiss peoples’ behavior? 

Hurt people do indeed hurt people – but why? And what do you do when someone hurts you?  

4 Reasons Hurt People Hurt People 

As followers of Jesus, our responsibility is to treat others with patience and compassion. Understanding where someone’s coming from and why they are the way they are – including why they hurt others – is an essential step. Here are four of the most common reasons why people carry the hurt they do and project it onto others: 

1. They have low empathy 

Some individuals struggle to empathize with others, making it challenging for them to understand the true impact of their actions. The phrase “walk a mile in their shoes” has little meaning, as these people simply can’t see beyond their own experiences and emotions. They can’t fully comprehend how their words and behaviors hurt other people, and they may not see a reason to change. 

2. They struggle with self-esteem 

Self-esteem is the measure of how we value and perceive ourselves. If someone’s self-esteem is at an unhealthy low, they might not see themselves as worthy of healthy relationships or deserving of love from others. This can cause them to self-sabotage their relationships, pushing well-meaning people away. 

3. They have an agenda 

Some people intentionally hurt others as part of a strategy to gain power or dominance – whether in a relationship or to climb a social hierarchy. Unlike those with low empathy, these individuals may know exactly how their actions hurt others. In a way, it’s as if these people have an overdose of self-esteem, enabling them to quickly justify chasing after personal gain and leaving bodies in their wake. 

4. They enjoy inflicting pain 

The sad truth is that some people find pleasure or satisfaction in hurting others. Though not an excuse, these individuals often carry deep wounds from their past that they haven’t processed in a healthy way – if at all. They project their inner pain onto others instead of confronting it and seeking healing. 

How to respond when someone hurts you 

There are all kinds of reasons beyond what we mentioned that might cause someone to hurt others. But while our instincts might tell us to push back and get just as nasty, we’re called to a higher standard as followers of Christ. Here’s how to honor Jesus and others when we find ourselves on the receiving end of hurt: 

Understand their pain 

Seeking to understand can help us respond with grace. The Bible teaches us to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). By showing empathy and understanding, we can disrupt the cycle of pain and provide an opportunity for healing. 

Extend grace 

You may have heard the quote that says, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Ultimately, holding a grudge only hurts ourselves. Responding to hurt with grace, however, is a transformative act. By choosing to forgive, we allow ourselves to shed the anger and hurt we’re holding onto at the hands of someone else. If that wasn’t reason enough, Colossians 3:13 reminds us, “the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” 

Set boundaries 

Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial when dealing with intentional hurt. The Bible affirms the importance of boundaries, urging us to "guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life" (Proverbs 4:23). Sometimes creating distance from someone is an act of self-care that protects our well-being. 

Pray for them 

Prayer is a powerful tool in navigating relationships marked by hurt. The Bible encourages us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer may feel passive in these situations, but it’s a powerful response when we receive hurt. Praying for those who hurt us invites God's intervention and transforms our hearts, fostering a spirit of compassion and understanding. 

Be the reason someone stops hurting 

Dealing with hurtful people isn’t easy. It requires a combination of empathy, grace, and intentional actions. By understanding the reasons behind their hurtful behavior and responding with love, we contribute to the healing process, paying forward the love and grace we’ve been given by Jesus and breaking the cycle of pain. 


Dealing with negative people can be draining, but we’ve got some more insights to help you navigate relationships where extra grace is required.  


LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you!

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