Some people are hurting because bad things have happened to them. Some people are hurting because they have made bad choices. The problem is that people often make bad choices because bad things have happened to them. Understanding this truth has been a major paradigm shift for me.
There’s Always a Story
I used to hear about people struggling with things like addictions or eating disorders. And I’m a little ashamed to admit that my first thought toward them wasn’t grace or compassion; it was judgment. I would think (if ever so secretly), “What is wrong with them? Why would you do that? Why can’t they just get it together?”
But thanks to a little life experience and some wise people speaking into my life, I eventually realized that no one randomly wakes up one day and says, “You know what I think I’ll do today? I think I’m going to destroy my life.” I don’t think you’ll ever hear a second grader saying, “Do you know what I want to be one day? An addict.”
No. There’s always a story. There’s always underlying pain.
But this doesn’t just apply to the seemingly big stuff. This means that when the server at the restaurant is short with you, you can move from thinking, “What a jerk!” to “I wonder what happened to him today.” I don’t know anyone who wakes up in the morning and consciously thinks, “I think I’m just going to be a jerk to everyone today.”
I once heard a pastor say that we should always assume that people are hurting because the truth is that everyone is. Friends, this changes the way we see the world. This changes how we see all the strangers crossing our path each day, but this also changes the way we see our friends and our family members.
Here’s what is important to know: this doesn’t EXCUSE the behaviors; it simply explains them. It doesn’t mean that it’s okay for people to be rude or make life-destroying choices. It just helps to provide each of us with greater grace and compassion because there’s a fuller understanding of why people are the way they are.
It’s Normal to Struggle
This understanding can also powerfully dismantle shame for those who are struggling. When someone is told, “Hey, the way you’re responding to life right now is not an overreaction to what happened to you. The fact that you’re struggling with XYZ because you went through XYZ doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you completely normal.” If you went through the same things they went through, you would likely be struggling in the same way. That’s important for all of us to know for our own heart posture, but it’s also crucial to share with those who are hurting and struggling around us.
So the next time you hear about your best friend’s niece who is going back to rehab for the third time or the next time your dinner server is rude to you, just remember…there’s likely a story. May this truth infuse you with love, grace, and compassion today.
Mercy Multiplied exists to provide opportunities for all to experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and life-transforming power. We offer multiple programs and resources online and onsite designed to equip people to live free and stay free in Christ. For more information about the services we offer, click here.