“I feel bad when you say I hurt you”

This piece is making the rounds on Facebook–deservedly. It’s about how people mistake feeling bad about hurting somebody for feeling bad because they were hurt, how guilt disables empathy, and how people become so used to being catered to by people lower on the ladder that other people’s emotional work is invisible to them. The article’s main focus is on white people and males, but it applies to any power structure.

Own, Apologize, Repair: Coming Back to Integrity

A favorite section of mine:

If you are the kind of person who likes to know when you have caused harm, then there are some valuable questions about how to make that real: how do you invite this information, how do you welcome it, how do you thank those who help you grow this way, if they have to tell you because you have not figured it out for yourself? Do you realize just how scary it can be to tell you, before they know how you will react? Do you mix up their fear of you for anger? Is their fear in any way justified? How can you make sure it is not?

If your focus is more on the fact that harm got named than it is on the harm itself, does this strike you as at all peculiar?

…. [D]o you make it the responsibility of those you have harmed to tell you ‘in a nice way’?

Is it possible they have tried to tell you in a nice way, and you have clapped your hands over your ears or made it hard for them, and eventually they lose the capacity to be ‘nice’ while they are getting harmed? If you think back – really think back – how long were they trusting you and quietly asking you for help and empathy and support and compassion and honesty before they lost their buffer of capacity to speak kindly while drowning?

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