Hurt people hurt people. It's a saying I've heard for years but more recently I've really come to believe it. I don't believe that people who are mean or hateful to others are happy people. I don't see how they can be. That nastiness they show on the outside has got to be just the surface coating of what is lurking underneath.
So I've tried to remember this when people do not-so-nice things, and try to see things through their eyes. Give them the benefit of the doubt. I may not always be able to figure out what inner hurt is causing the outer behavior, but even if I can't, I just assume there is something there.
It's not about not holding people responsible for their actions, or making excuses for them, or allowing them to be as mean and nasty as they want to be and just being a doormat. It's about understanding and forgiving.
I've had a developing situation over the last couple of weeks that really gave me some insight into my own theory -- proved it, actually.
Many many years ago, I was in a situation where a number of people were very hateful to me, without cause. One of those people re-entered my life recently and I will admit to being very hesitant at first, though she was being quite friendly. I was friendly back, but inside, I was thinking, "Okay... why are you acting like we were great friends and you're so glad to be back in touch... you HATED me when we knew each other..."
She continued with the friendliness, and it really seemed genuine, so I finally brought it up. I'd already started putting together what happened from some of the things she had shared with me, but when I asked about it, she shared even more. It seems that she herself was very insecure at the time, and felt friendless. (I never in a million years would have guessed it, from her tough exterior. But it was an act to cover up the hurt inside.) She had been through a recent trauma and was thrust into a situation she had no control over, with people who didn't want her. She wanted desperately to be wanted and accepted by these people, and it just so happens that the girl she wanted most to be accepted by was my childhood Nellie Oleson.
She seriously was. She had the golden ringlets and the storebought dresses and the snooty attitude to go with it. She was the perfect Nellie. And she despised me in much the same way the real Nellie despised Laura.
So... this girl recognized this and was intentionally nasty to me thinking it would please Nellie and make Nellie accept her. All the while the girl actually liked me and wished we could be friends, but thought that I was "too smart" to ever want to be friends with someone like her. And there I was desperately wishing for someone, ANYONE, to just be NICE.
We really could have used each other back then, she and I. She later realized what Nellie was really like and decided she never EVER wanted to be like that, but by that time we were no longer at the same school, and until quite recently had never seen each other since those days of our youth. :)
We've discovered we actually have quite a bit in common and are quickly becoming friends now. A shame we couldn't have found this out then, when we both really needed a friend, but better late than never, right?
And it just reminds me yet again that you just never know what's really going on with someone inside. I totally thought all these years that this girl hated me. I also thought she was confident and assertive. Turns out none of those things were true. Just goes to show we can't judge others based on their actions alone -- there's so much going on under the surface that we just can't know about. Maybe it's time to dig a little deeper, take a few risks, and show that we care enough to find out what's going on inside, rather than just rejecting based on what goes on outside.
After all, "We would love each other better, if we only understood." ~Rudyard Kipling