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Sticks and Stones
by Miriam Adahan

People will hurt us and we, inevitably, will hurt others, even if only unintentionally. When we feel hurt, the Torah tells us not to have hatred in our hearts, not to be vengeful or bear a grudge (Leviticus 19:17,18), but rather: "Love your fellowman as yourself," (Leviticus 19:18)

This is easier said than done when someone has just disappointed us. Our minds may be burning with rage and our hearts broken with grief at the insults, disappointments and betrayals we experience. The only way to overcome disappointment is with faith:

"No one hurts his finger down below without it being decreed above." (Talmud - Chulin 7b)

...When people with whom we usually have a positive relationship hurt our feelings, it is proper to immediately assume, "They did not intend to hurt." Nonetheless, we may choose to let the person know that we have been hurt, so that s/he will be more careful in the future. A spiritually refined person will express sincere regret for any pain caused, whereas insensitive people will attack, ridicule or deny that they did anything wrong...

Unless someone is constantly belittling and demeaning you, assume that those who offend you have no intention of doing so. Tell yourself over and over, until it becomes a firm conviction, "They're doing the best they can with the level of awareness they have right now."

Many people resist compassion because they think it means ignoring their hurt feelings, or excusing, justifying or ignoring people's poor character! In fact, judging others favorably is merely the first step in the process of coping with the problem in a rational manner. People need to know your limits and must be taught to respect them. Children, in particular, need clear rules and regulations. This must be done with respect, not rage and scorn.

You awaken compassion in your heart by thinking, "They're doing the best they can." Compassion frees you to think calmly about possible solutions. For example:

INNOCENT/UNAWARE: "He doesn't even realize that I felt hurt by his remark or by his lack of attention to me."

INNOCENT/ACCIDENT: "He really didn't mean to do it."

INNOCENT/IN PAIN: "She is preoccupied with her own physical or emotional pain and cannot give me what I want."

INNOCENT/BAD MOOD: "The person is simply in a bad mood. It has nothing to do with me!"

INNOCENT/EXERCISED POOR JUDGMENT: "The person didn't realize that it was a poor decision at the time."

INNOCENT/FORGOT: "He simply forgot to do what I wanted."

INNOCENT/TEMPORARY DYSFUNCTION: "He is tired, hungry, worried, going through hormonal storms, coping with a loss."

INNOCENT/DELAYED: "He must be late because of a traffic jam, broken watch or unexpected emergency. At any rate, I'm sure he has a good reason." For frequent delays, perhaps, "When she gets locked into an activity, she just can't stop."

INNOCENT/ATTACHMENT DISORDER: "Due to abuse, s/he just doesn't know how to connect to people in a healthy way. S/he is very wounded emotionally."

INNOCENT/UNINTERESTED: "S/he doesn't want a relationship with me. For the sake of my sanity, I will stop trying to get through."

INNOCENT/INSECURE: "Like many people, when s/he feels insecure, s/he feels unloved and inadequate. When s/he lashes out, it's because subconsciously s/he wants to test if this gloomy assessment is true. The best thing is to provide reassurance by saying, "I love you. I have faith in your ability to cope with this difficulty." [Note: In general, when men feel insecure, they do not want to talk until the mood passes. Afterwards, they want reassurance and appreciation. In general, when women feel down, they do want to talk it all out and be comforted and reassured of your love.]

INNOCENT/ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER: "S/he has ADD, which makes it harder to get organized, control impulses, listen attentively, focus, remember and regulate emotions."

INNOCENT/HAS DIFFERENT SET OF BOUNDARIES: "She thinks it's perfectly fine to walk into my bedroom and look into my closets." Or: "She thinks it's okay to ask questions about my private life and call at any hour of the day or night."

INNOCENT/THINKS IT'S LOVE: "He thinks he's being loving when he interrogates me about where I've been and who I've talked to and calls me ten times a day. He doesn't realize that he is alienating me with his possessiveness and jealousy."

INNOCENT/POOR CHEMISTRY: "We have such different priorities/needs/ feelings/tastes/tempos, etc."

INNOCENT/ADDICTED: "The person is in the grip of an addiction (to food, work, money, computers, etc.)."

INNOCENT/ONLY A CHILD: "He hit back/made noise/made a mess/had a tantrum/drew on the walls/made demands -- because that's what children sometimes do." Always see children as innocent. Never think of small children as manipulative, as this is a sure-fire way to make yourself angry. Forgive children, especially under the age of seven, when true impulse control just begins. Do not ignore or justify misbehavior. Use misbehavior as an opportunity to educate, remind, suggest and direct with firmness but compassion.

INNOCENT/LEARNING-DISABLED: Approximately 24% of all children have some learning disability. Many are too tense to sit still and concentrate. Criticizing, shaming or otherwise punishing them only increases their pain, when what they really need is extra compassion, and guidance.

INNOCENT/TESTING LIMITS: "The child is expressing his individuality and desire for independence." Or: "He is testing to see how far he can go and what the limits are. He is testing to see if I'll stand firm, because he's insecure. Knowing that there are limits will help him feel safe."

INNOCENT/BORED: "Children get crazy when bored. That's why the two-year-old took all the tissues out of the box, unrolled all the toilet paper and poured his cereal on the floor. There was no malicious intent! Children aren't criminals... Children need attention just like flowers need water. They are not bad for wanting attention. It is a natural need. I will encourage independence and creativity, but I do not want to crush their desire for connection altogether or the child will become damaged."

This article was reprinted with permission from, excerpted with permission from "STICKS AND STONES" - When words are used as weapons. Published by Feldheim Publishers.



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