When Someone Hurts Our Feelings

I knew I was in trouble when she asked me when would be a good time to talk. 

“There’s a matter I’d like to discuss with you privately,” she said, and a knot began to form in the pit of my stomach. The kind I used to get when the teacher asked me to stay after school. Turns out, I was in trouble. I had hurt my friend’s feelings and made her feel incompetent. 

“That’s not what I meant at all,” I explained when she shared her concerns with me. “Please let me explain. . .” and I filled in the back story and told her what had prompted the action I'd taken. “I’m so sorry,” I concluded. “You are one of the smartest women I know, and I would never intentionally hurt you. Will you please forgive me?” 

She graciously forgave me, and our friendship emerged stronger than it was before. 

My friend employed a wise biblical principle when she asked to talk with me that day. 

I read a similar account in Numbers 32. The children of Israel were preparing to cross the river into the Promised Land. They had just waged a successful campaign against the Midianites and were surveying the rich pastureland they now commanded. The tribes of Reuben and Gad realized the land would be a perfect place to settle with their vast numbers of sheep and goats. 

“Would it be okay if we settled on this side of the Jordan instead of going across with the rest of the Israelites?” they asked Moses. 

Poor Moses, weary from trudging through 40 years in the desert because of the previous group of dissenters who didn’t want to go into the Promised Land, didn’t receive their request very well. 

“What do you mean ‘Would it be okay if we settled on this side of the Jordan?’” he exclaimed. “Don’t you remember what happened when your forefathers didn't want to enter the land? If you don’t go to battle with the other tribes, they’ll grow fainthearted and discouraged, and we’ll never possess the land!” (my translation). 

“No, no, no,” the Reubenites and Gadites said, “that’s not what we meant at all. We’re more than happy to fight alongside our brothers. We’d just like to settle on this side of the river when the battles are over.” 

“Ahhhhhh,” Moses said in response, “now I understand. Thanks for explaining.” 

Misunderstandings. They happen all the time. Sometimes we misspeak. Other times we misinterpret. We get incomplete information and draw a faulty conclusion. Once in a while, someone truly is rude or insensitive. Our feelings are hurt, and we get angry. 

It doesn’t matter how we got offended. What matters most is how we handle it. Do we assume the worst and get mad? Do we replay the offense over and over in our minds, driving the knife deeper and deeper into our own punctured hearts? Do we talk about it to other people and receive comfort and justification from their reactions? Or do we pursue peace and reconciliation? 

“If it is possible,” Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” 

Often, like my friend, this means initiating a meeting, expressing our feelings accurately and respectfully, and listening carefully to the other’s explanation. It means broaching the subject with the goal of restoration, not revenge. It means being willing to humble ourselves and take the first step toward reconciliation. 

If my friend had taken my words at face value, gotten offended, stopped talking to me, and gossiped about how mean I was, our friendship could have suffered a fatal blow. Instead, she responded to the offense with wisdom and maturity. She valued our relationship enough to pursue peace. Today, years later, she remains one of my dearest friends. 

I’m grateful she made the effort to talk with me about our misunderstanding. I think she is, too. 

What about you? Is there a damaged relationship in your life? Could the Lord be calling you to take the first steps toward reconciliation? Why not pray about it today? 

Have you had a positive experience with reconciliation? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and encourage us all.

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