Handling Hurtful Words
One of the hardest things to handle is when someone offers “constructive criticism” and it’s clear that the intent was never to be constructive. Their goal wasn’t to help you become a better you. It was to create a “worse you” so they feel better in comparison.
When this happens, your instincts tell you to respond with equally hurtful words. You want to return a little “constructive criticism” their way, and you imagine how good it would feel to unload on them!
Before you respond in this way, consider this: you can never become a better you by trying to make someone else a worse them. It only perpetuates the exchange of pain, and no one comes out a winner. The problem is that when someone hurts us, the only words that come to mind are meant to harm them, not help them.
Jesus tells us what we can do when we find ourselves in this situation. He said we are to love and pray for our enemies, even when our impulse is to disdain them and wish for their misfortune. To be clear, Jesus isn’t calling us to be best friends, take vacations together, or meet regularly for coffee. He is helping us find a pathway to wishing for their well-being, and prayer has a way of helping us get there.
It can be difficult to find the right words when we pray for our enemies. I recommend using the Loving Kindness Prayer. It is a prayer we can use when someone has hurled hurtful words our way, and it can be used for those closest to us. Those who use the prayer usually begin by praying for those closest to them, and then work their way to the person with whom they’re struggling. I use these words for each person for whom I pray, whether they’re close to me or someone with whom I’m struggling:
O God of love,
May (name) feel safe and watched over.
May (name) feel healing where (he/she) hurts.
May (name) feel happy and peaceful.
May (name) feel healthy and whole.
May (name) feel the Spirit guiding (him/her) into life.
In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
When I pray this prayer for someone close to me, I feel even closer. And when I pray these words for someone who has hurt me, it softens my heart toward them. It also reminds me that I will never be a better me by trying to make someone else a worse them. I encourage you to try using this prayer, especially for the difficult people in your life.