When You Unintentionally Hurt Someone

by | Jan 14, 2020 | Healthy Relationships


Although I like to think of myself as an accepting, gentle and loving human being, I unintentionally hurt other people’s feelings more frequently than I like.

It just happens.

I think that I am simply asking for what I’d like, and they hear criticism.
I think that I am just letting my needs be known, and they feel like they aren’t good enough.
I think I’m just asking an innocent question, and they bristle.
I think I’m just being friendly, and they misinterpret my intentions – big time.

Communication can be so glitchy.

On the one hand, there’s intention, and on the other, impact.

So many things arise to filter messages as they pass through the spaces between humans.

For example, take personality and temperament.

Ugh. I was wired with a healthy dose of always being able to see the next step, the improvement, the ideal. No matter how wonderful something is, I can easily find a way to make it even MORE wonderful.

I tell myself I can’t help it: I just think that way and live with a chronic sense of “not good enough” that gets projected onto everyone around me.

It drives the people closest to me absolutely crazy.
Especially my daughter.

The other day, she let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I was the cause of her misery in life because “nothing I even do is good enough for you and I am sorry I am such a disappointment to you.”

Ouch. That stung.

Years ago –

I would have wanted to explain how she was misunderstanding me.
How she didn’t appreciate how much I was trying to help her.
How, if she just did all those things, I wouldn’t have to tell her to do them in the first place.
How she didn’t appreciate how much I was trying to help her.
How, if she just did all those things, I wouldn’t have to tell her to do them in the first place.

These days –

My heart is stronger and softer.
I take others’ perceptions in, turning them around inside of me, looking closely.
Not pushing them away; not identifying with them.

When people tell you how you are affecting them, listen deeply.
Care about their experiences.
Take it in. Learn. Grow.

There are times in all of our lives when we need to take a step back and look at whether or not the way we are showing up is truly aligned with our intentions. I adore my daughter and in many ways think she may as well walk on water for all the adoration I send her way.

And yet, I become aware of how I still communicate primarily around whatever is missing. The laundry that isn’t done, the kitty litter that didn’t get finished, the missing assignments at school – the list goes on.

I can look at that.

I see the ways in which I act out of my fears, my defaults, my anxieties, my unawareness.

And, I know how to be gentle and loving with myself:

I know it doesn’t make me a bad mother, or a bad person.
I embrace being imperfect and human.
I embrace and enjoy my ability to learn, to become aware, to change.

Above all, I stay in loving relationship with her – and others – even when they give me “feedback” that I wasn’t expecting, and certainly don’t enjoy.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on how my mind wants to nestle into the gaps, the cracks, the breaks, the fragments. It wants to point out what’s missing, what’s next, what’s not quite up to snuff yet.

I appreciate its loyal quality-management directives.

And yet, I invite it to some new tasks:

Focus on what IS present.
Notice the good that IS happening.
Watch for the milestones achieved already.
Take in the good.
Celebrate what’s working.

It takes intention and effort, but the rewards are great:

Joy. Generosity. Abundance. Connection. Beauty. Energy.

On my way to bed on a snowy evening, I happen to notice the driveway freshly shoveled – and I didn’t even have to ask. I shower my daughter with gratitude, so appreciative. She beams, “Of course! It’s fun to surprise you!”

Giving inspired by love is infinitely more meaningful and life-affirming than tasks completed resentfully and then evaluated against the mirages of an ideal.

We have such power to make one another’s lives wonderful, or terrible.

Let’s keep joining one another on this wild ride of being imperfectly and most fully, human – and let’s keeping choosing love.

I want to take a moment to honor the courage it takes for you to embark on your own personal development journey.

Going inward to heal our past, align with our present conditions and emerge into a future of our choosing takes courage, fortitude and the willingness to feel our lives fully.

I know it involves facing some things about ourselves we might not like, feeling things we’ve avoided feeling for so long.

But, I want to remind you: It’s worth it.

The journey of personal transformation and healing liberates you from the clutches of fear, and drops you gently into the soft embrace of Love.

Transforming your heart, transforms the world.

Embrace the human in you.

Leave a comment below 🙂


  1. Zahra O'Shea

    is there a word for when someone constantly brings up something that has affected them to or around the person was the cause of it (in both their eyes) and therefore in a way unintentionally hurting them.

    • Zahra O'Shea

      around the person that was the


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