Last week my daughter got a scratch on her finger the size of nothing at all, and the next morning she was complaining that it hurt so bad and she needed a bandaid, immediately. As with every morning, I was rushing to get us all out the door and so I very distractedly said something completely dismissive, to the effect of: “You’re fine; that doesn’t hurt,” probably without evening looking at her. Then I heard her say, in a very quiet but steady voice, “Mommy, how do you know what hurts if you’re not me?”
How do you know what hurts if you’re not me?
I took a breath, looked her in the eye, and said: “You’re right, honey. Only you know how you feel. I’m so sorry,” as she nodded at me with that wise look/sigh only young children master—that look that says, “oh you poor poor adult who has forgotten once more all the rules and important things”
Of course while I was marveling at how obviously brave and brilliant and astute she is, I was also pretty certain that she really was just angling for attention and a princess bandaid.
But still. She could not be more right. I can never assume to know what hurts for someone else, just as I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me what hurts for me.
It got me thinking about all the ways that I dismiss others’ feelings—how often I get impatient if someone is upset by something that I don’t think they should be upset by, or how I brush off people’s physical complaints if they seem overly exaggerated or dramatic, or how I try to gloss over people’s hurt feelings so we can hurry and get to the sunny resolution. And that’s just not really fair at all. Because just because I don’t see the hurt, that doesn’t mean the hurt isn’t there. It’s not my job to determine the validity of the hurt; it’s my job to simply be there. To say: “That must be so hard.” To say: “I’m so sorry.” To offer a hug. To offer a princess bandaid.
How can you be there for what hurts today?
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