If someone were to ask you to make a list of all of the people that hurt you, you can probably write out a long list of those who have caused you pain. These may be family members, friends, coworkers, even a friend from church. So many friendships have been shattered because of cruel words and actions that have left those who have been hurt feeling betrayed. You never forget the hurt or the pain someone has caused you. Those feelings run deep. So how does God want us to respond to people who hurt us? It’s important to remember that you may not be in control of how a person treats you, but you are in control of how you respond to those situations. Here are seven ways people misuse people and what you can do.
Respond, Don’t React
We are all reactions waiting to happen. When a person hurts or misuses you, you may feel compelled to quickly respond but the best thing you can do is pause. Sometimes, just waiting will add needed perspective. By responding and not just reacting, you are exerting control over your behavior. If a person is misusing you, you should also create personal limits. This is part of reclaiming your personal power. You have the right to define what your limits are and insist that they be respected. Putting misuse into perspective doesn’t mean you will be immune from being hurt by someone but it does mean that you’ll be better equipped to handle the hurt. Another thing to do is listen to your gut reaction. This is usually a good indicator of what you really think and feel. It may also be God trying to tell you how to best respond to the situation.
Turn to the Bible
The word abuse is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of anything. The Bible regards abuse as sin because we are called to love one another (Kohn 13:34). Abuse disregards others and is the opposite of this command. An abuser desires to satisfy his natural selfishness regardless of the consequences to himself or others. There are a number of verses in Scripture that strongly condemn taking advantage or abusing others. Abuse doesn’t always point to extreme forms of anger and violence. Some abuse can be subtle. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect because there is no observable evidence of the abuse but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less painful. Only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse. The Bible tells us, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
The Bible calls us to forgive others, including our enemies and also to speak the truth in love. The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous verses commanding us to “forgive one another.” Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” A Christian who is unwilling to forgive others will find his fellowship with God hindered and can reap bitterness.
Luke 6:27-36 also speaks to this issue. In some areas of Christian life we struggle to find out how God wants us to respond, but that’s not the case here. God’s instructions are detailed.
Jesus said, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). In the following verses, Jesus gives several specific examples of how to treat those who have hurt you, and He concludes with, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). The ultimate standard is set here.
Apply Godly Wisdom to the Relationships You’re In
It’s important that we apply godly wisdom to all relationships we’re in. There are times when we will allow ourselves to endure unnecessary pain in relationships because we believe it’s our duty or because it brings us to a place of meekness that honors Christ. While God instructs us to take up our cross and follow Christ, it’s important to discern what God is really telling us through the pain we’re experiencing. The closer you become with the Scripture, the more God will speak to you about the relationships you’re in. He may be calling you to realign some relationships. You may be around people who negatively influence your life. Painful words and violent tempers can create traps in your life that God may not be calling you to be part of. When you seek God more when it comes to your relationships, you may also begin giving less of yourself to people addicted to gossip and slander because being in that space is not only not uplifting, but also doesn’t reflect Christ.
Limit the Influence of People Who Are Hurting You
If someone is misusing you, you have to start decreasing their influence in your life. In these circumstances where you begin to limit the influence of the person that’s hurting you, it doesn’t mean that you will no longer love, forgive or pray for that person. It just means that you no longer allow them to take up so much space in your life. We know from Scripture that we are not our own, so regardless of how much we might love someone, including those who have hurt us, we must shift our interaction with them because our Lord tells us to. When we know that we are not our own, we also recognize that things will show up in our lives that are completely outside of our control. God calls us to forgive. As believers, we can choose whether we will hold grudges or practice grace, but if we are truly following Him, the choice has already been made. This can be tough, so God provides some balance with verses like 2 Corinthians 12:10 which says, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distressed, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Pray For Them
One of the best things we can do for those who hurt us is pray for them. Many times we are not in a place to force the other person to stop their hurtful behavior. We also rarely have the power to change them, but we do have the power to change our response to the person. God simply tells us to pray for them. If you’re wondering what you should pray about, the answer is simple. Pray that God will help you to love this person. Pray that God will help you to see the good things He wants you to do for this person. Pray that God will bless this person. What’s so great about these prayers is that they focus your attention on God. Instead of being consumed with the hurt, you focus on God, the One who can heal the hurt, and give you the power to respond in a radically new way.
Use Biblical Figures as Examples
We can learn a great deal on how to deal with people who misuse us from the Bible. One great example is examining King David’s story. King David demonstrates this many times in the Psalms he wrote, speaking of the betrayal of friends and enemies – calling on God to punish them. When David was fleeing for his life because his son Absalom was leading a rebellion, a man named Shimei came out and cursed David and threw stones at him. When one of David’s generals asked permission to take off his head, David responded, leave Shimei alone, perhaps God has told him to curse me (2 Samuel 16:5-4). This is a powerful response in such a difficult time. David protects himself from sinning by trusting God and assuming that God’s plan is beyond his understanding.
God wants us to trust Him regarding our relationships with others. Ask yourself if the relationships you’re in really reflect God. Our best relationships are the ones that have Jesus at the center of them. It’s very possible that if a person is always hurting or misusing you, Jesus is not at the center of your relationship with them and that’s not healthy for your physical, emotional, mental or spiritual well-being. If God is not present in the relationship you’re in, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship or at least change the way you interact with each other.