My dilemma

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Introduction

Two people have hurt me badly in the last few weeks. In both cases, after some thought, I was honest with those involved, expressing my response as lovingly as I could. However, they both reacted with anger and blame. Sadly, offering to meet for reconciliation has brought no response.

Since then, I repeatedly go over all that happened, which generates a constant, painful, and exhausting sense of dread.

The crux of my anxiety is that when someone hurts me, I don’t know whether I should speak out, or say nothing. Each approach has different consequences.


What did Jesus say and do?

As always, I look for guidance in Jesus’ teaching and example. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt and injustice, which I find confusing.

Until his arrest, Jesus always spoke the truth in love when people criticised or insulted him. He was, in fact, very direct. His honesty made him a lot of enemies, and contributed to his death.

After his arrest, Jesus said very little, no matter what he was accused of, and how he was treated. This puzzled his captors, perhaps antagonising them even more.

Over the years, I’ve tried both approaches. What happens when I follow Christ’s example in these two, very different, ways?


A. Speaking out

When I “speak the truth in love”, it almost always backfires. The person I’ve been honest with turns on me, angrily blaming me for what I said, even though it was their own hurtful behaviour towards me that I spoke about. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic chronic dread.


B. Saying nothing

When I say nothing, I simply allow the other person to hurt me, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. Without feedback, of course, there is a risk that they may continue to damage me. This makes me feel helpless and powerless, worsening my chronic depression.

Either way, I can easily end up feeling as if life is not worth living.


Forgiveness

Fortunately, Jesus is absolutely clear that whether we speak out or say nothing, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never recognise what they have done, and never say they are sorry.


Conclusion

When people hurt me, I ruminate endlessly about how I responded, and what went wrong. Whether I speak out or say nothing, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health.

Worse still, I also feel guilty for having “caused” the other person to strike back angrily at me, and to hate me from then onwards.

So, when someone hurts me, should I speak out, or say nothing? I still don’t know the answer to this question, which has plagued me all my life. All I can do is to pray for those who hurt me, asking God to guide and heal us all.

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References

Introduction

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).


What did Jesus say and do?

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33; NIV).

The leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise (Mark 15:3-5; NLT).

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).


A. Speaking out

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV.

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).


B. Saying nothing

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7;NIV).

Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? (Job 3:16; NLT).


Forgiveness

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).


Conclusion

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT)

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

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Your example

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Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps
(1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

1. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Silence
In response to blame.

2. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Courage
In the face of fear.

3. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Pardon
As you bowed to pain.

4. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Help me, please,
To persevere.


References

1. When the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.“Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response (Matthew 27:12-14; NLT).

2. If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

3. When they came to the place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NLT).

4. You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36; NIV).

I look to the Lord for help (Micah 7:7; NLT).

According to your will

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This is the confidence we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us
(1 John 5:14; NIV).

Lord,

1. May I treat myself with love
According to your will,
Sharing all I feel with you
As I face each new test.

2. May I capture all my thoughts
According to your will,
Changing judgements into love –
Then I’ll have done my best.

3. May I speak the truth in love
According to your will,
Choosing all my words with care,
Though sometimes I’ll be blamed.

4. May I do all things with love
According to your will,
Serving you with all my heart –
Then I won’t be ashamed.


References

1. Love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; NLT).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:18; NLT).

2. We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV).

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For […] the standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged (Matthew 7:1-2; NLT).

We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; NLT).

I have always tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts (Ecclesiastes 7:23; NLT).

3. We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

I have many aggressive enemies; they hate me without reason (Psalm 38:19; NLT).

4. Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

Serve the Lord with all your heart (1 Samuel 12:20; NIV).

Let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me (Psalm 25:2; NKJV).

Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in you (Psalm 25:20; NKJV).

When someone hurts me

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Father, forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing
(Luke 23:34; NLT).

Lord,

1. When someone hurts me
Very deeply,
How can I explain
Without offence?

2. I try so hard
To speak the truth, Lord, gently,
But then they turn on me
And are incensed.

3. I pray for them,
For reconciliation,
And friendship,
But their love has changed to hate.

4. Lord, how can I set boundaries
With others
So they don’t blame me,
And retaliate?

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References

1. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them (Luke 17:3; NIV).

2. We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).

3. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:28; NLT).

See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me! (Psalm 25:19; NLT).

4. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31-2; NLT).

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4; NLT).

At least (#1 of 2 linked prayers)

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He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out the flickering candle
(Matthew 12:20; NLT).

Lord,

1. When I can’t help someone,
May I, at least,
Not accidentally hurt them.

2. And when I accidentally hurt them,
May I, at least,
Not add to their distress
By failing to grasp
The damage I’ve done.

3. And when I fail to grasp
The damage I’ve done,
May I, at least,
Not add to their pain
By blaming them
For their response
To what I said,
Or did,
Or failed to do.

Fault after fault

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I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me
(Psalm 51:3; NIV).

1. Fault after fault
You register,
But, Lord,
You never blame me.

2. Sin after sin
You see each day,
But, Lord,
You never shame me.

3. Lapse after lapse
You recognise,
But, Lord,
You still restore me.

4. Debt after debt
You cancel out,
But, Lord,
You still adore me.


References

1. He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

2. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever (Psalm 103:9; NLT).

3. He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3; NKJV).

4. Each day the Lord pours out his unfailing love upon me (Psalm 42:8; NLT).