The other day I was thinking about a good friend who has a lifelong health issue. As someone who is talented, intelligent, and likeable, he might have ended up arrogant, in which case we would not have become friends! But the “thorn” he carries around day by day has made him a good listener, sensitive, someone who knows how to value others. A good friend.

They say that hurt people hurt people. A hurt person might easily hurt someone else as an expression of his brokenness, not necessarily because he is a terrible person. Knowing he has been hurt doesn’t help much, if he has hurt us or someone we care about. I’ve found that it does help to soften my view of him and possibly lead me to forgiveness.

I’ve seen a different pattern as well. Hurt people heal people. How many times have you wanted to share a weakness or a hurtful experience with someone and they were calloused and unsympathetic? Maybe it was because they’d never been hurt in the same way, and for them it was like trying to grasp Chinese or Bulgarian. They didn’t connect with the experience, and even less with the feelings.

What a contrast with the rare person who knows how to listen. Their compassionate facial expression, their willingness to listen and reflect back (rather than turning the conversation immediately to themselves) is like a soothing balm. Someone heard. Someone understood. Often this person is sensitive because he, too, knows what it is like to be hurt. He’s been there. Like my friend, he has hurt, too.

It’s easy to fall into a place where we remember our hurts and angrily wish it had been different. Why can’t we have had a different set of circumstances? If we’re not careful, this thinking leads us to envy, to anger at God. It also leads us to bypass our own blessings as we become blind to how our lot could have been so much worse. Maybe, just maybe, those life bruises we carry around on the inside are meant to open the box a little wider and let something flow out. Compassion, patience, understanding. In this way we are like Christ, who became like us in our humanness. He hurt, and not only physically. There was a reason people were drawn to him.

As they will be drawn to us, if we let our disappointments and scabbed knees open us up instead of closing us down. Think of it as “special equipping”, for a very important purpose. We might not even know what the purpose is yet. But be assured, it will be glorious, a balm to someone else, if we let it be.