Why Hurt People Hurt People

Hurt People mad - not speaking - angry (Adobe Stock) Screen Shot 2016-06-13It is an old adage that says, “Hurt people hurt people.” Those who have been emotionally damaged tend to inflict their hurt and pain on other people. For example, a large percentage of those who have been sexually abused become the abusers of others. Those who suffered under an alcoholic parent often cause their future family to suffer because of their drunken stupors.

Until we as a church deal with the whole person as shown in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 our congregations will be filled with people who are spiritually gifted but act like emotional infants. The church must deal with emotional health and not just spiritual health and power.

The following are common traits hurt people display in their interactions with others.

Common Traits in Hurt People

1. Hurt people often transfer their inner anger onto their family and close friends.

  • Often those around them become the recipients of harsh tones and fits of rage. That is because they have unknowingly become the vicarious recipients of transferred rage.

2. Hurt people interpret every word spoken to them through the prism of their pain.

  • Because of their pain, ordinary words are often misinterpreted to mean something negative towards them.
  • Because of this, they are extremely sensitive and act out of pain instead of reality.

3. The Tendency is That Hurt people interpret actions through the prism of their pain.

  • Their emotional pain causes them to suspect wrong motives or evil intent behind other people’s actions towards them.

4. Hurt people often portray themselves as victims and carry a “victim spirit”.

  • Often hurt people can cry “racism,” “sexism,” or “homophobia.” They often use the words “unjust” or “unfair” to describe the way they are being treated, even if there is no truth to this. (That is not to say that sometimes there really is racism or sexism in some instances. This is just used as an example.)

Hurt people have a hard time entering into a trusting relationship. They often carry around a suspicious spirit.

5. Additionally, hurt people often alienate others and wonder why no one is there for them.

  • They often continually hurt the ones they love and need the most with their self-destructive behavior.

As it Pertains to Hurt People:

6. Hurt people have the emotional maturity of the age they received their (un-dealt with) hurt.

  • For example, if a girl was raped by a man when she was 12 years old, unless she forgives that man and allows Christ to heal her heart, her emotional growth will stop. Even when she reaches her later years she may still have the emotional maturity of a 12 year-old.

7. Hurt people are often frustrated and depressed because past pain spills over into their consciousness.

  • In many instances, they may not even be aware of why they are continually frustrated or depressed. They have coped with pain by compartmentalizing it or layering it over with other things over time.

8. Hurt people often erupt with inappropriate emotion because words, actions, or circumstances “touch” and “trigger” past woundedness.

  • I have been in situations with people in which there was a gross overreaction to a word I spoke or an action that was taken. It appeared that this reaction came “out of left field.” But it was really the person responding to an accumulation of years of hurt and pain that spilled over in various situations.
  • I have been in situations where I felt hurt, troubled, or overreacted to something. This is because it touched a nerve because of a wound I received in the past. In these situations I have attempted to reason through the situation as objectively as I can. I’ve done this with much prayer and introspection so I would not say or do anything damaging to another person or myself.


9. Hurt people often occupy themselves with busyness, work, and/or accomplishments as a way of compensating for low self-esteem.

  • Often ministers are not motivated by a love for Jesus but a drive to accomplish.
  • It is important that pastors and ministers be led by the Spirit instead of being driven to succeed.
  • A minister should not preoccupy himself with making things happen. He or she should walk in integrity and humility. He or she should allow God to open up doors and provide a ministerial platform.

10. Hurt people often attempt to medicate themselves with excessive entertainment, drugs, alcohol, pornography, sexual relationships, or hobbies as a way to forget their pain and run from reality.

  • Until the church learns to deal with and emphasize the emotional life and health of the believer, the church will be filled with half-Christians. These are people who pray and read the Bible but find no victory. That is because they do not face the woundedness in their souls.

11. Hurt people have learned to accommodate their private “false self” or “dark side.” This causes them to lack integrity.

  • Often their private life is different from their public life. This causes hypocrisy and compounds feelings of guilt, condemnation, and depression.

12. Hurt people are often self-absorbed with their own pain. They are unaware they are hurting others.

  • They are often insensitive to other people. Their emotional pain limits their capacity for empathy and their capacity for self-awareness.
  • I have been in numerous situations when someone hurt me. They have kept on going in the relationship without ever apologizing because they had no clue what they were doing.

Also, it is said:

13. Hurt people are susceptible to demonic deception.

  • I am convinced that most of the divisions in the church are caused by saints who lack emotional health. They project their pain onto others.
  • Satan works in darkness and deception, and stays away from the light. Hurt people often have destructive habit-patterns that are practiced in the dark. Hence, their mind becomes a breeding ground for satanic deception.
  • If the church would deal more with the emotional health of the individual, there would be less of a foothold for demonic infiltration. Also, there would be stronger relationships, marriages, and healthier children. Plus, there would be a more balanced approach to ministry.

It is said:

14. God often purposely surfaces pain so hurt people can face reality.

  • Whether it is because of a marriage problem, or continual personal conflicts on the job, God often allows conflict and spillover. He wants the infection to stop spreading and the person to be healed.
  • Often Christians are fighting the devil and blaming him for conflict. God often allows conflict so that people would be motivated to dig deeper into their lives. They need to deal with root causes of destructive thought and habit patterns.
  • God’s purpose for us is that we would all be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This does not just happen with Bible studies, prayer, and times of glory. It also happens in painful situations when we have to face what has been hurting us for many years.
  • I have noticed that these periods of surfacing woundedness often take place when people transition into the mid-life years of their upper thirties and later. Perhaps this is because by then they are old enough to understand that there is something wrong. They also realize that it is not too late to redeem their pain and restore relationships and maximize their purpose. Rarely is a person able or even willing to deal with and face pain when they hit their senior years (sixties or older). Most at this age have already become hard-hearted, and/or become so depressed even though God is able to help them at any age.

And Lastly, the following is said about hurt people:

15. Hurt people need to forgive to be released and restored to freedom.

  • The Gospel of St. John 20:23 says that we have to release the sins of others if we are going to be released. This means that if we do not forgive others then the very thing we have become victimized with will become a part of our life. For example, alcoholic fathers breed alcoholic sons if their sons do not forgive and release their fathers.
  • The good news is that, through the efficacious blood of Christ, we can all be healed. We can be set free from all past hurts. This is so that we can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Truly our mess can become our message!

This article was written by Joseph Mattera wr. Joseph has been in full-time ministry since 1980. He is the presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition. He is also the Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York. This is a multi-ethnic congregation of 40 nationalities.

His passion is to see the Lordship of Christ manifest over every realm of society so the church can fulfill the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:28. This has resulted in extensive ministry nationally and internationally He reaches out to many nations of the world. They include the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Turkey, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Holland, Ukraine, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. You can visit his web site to read additional articles written by Joseph Mattera by clicking HERE.

— ALSO —

A good resource we recommend, written by Sandra Wilson, that may help you further would be:

Another good resource we recommend, written by John Townsend and Henry Cloud:

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Filed under: Abuse in Marriage Communication and Conflict

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79 responses to “Why Hurt People Hurt People

  1. When offended by someone at a character attack what should be done? Do you address the hurt person?

  2. I was hurt physically and especially emotionally. Thus, I hurt my family and my lover and most of all myself. The most words that express what I felt are the next: ‘They are often insensitive to other people because their emotional pain limits their capacity for empathy and their capacity for self-awareness.’

    1. Sadly, we live in a fallen world. And as time goes on the enemy of our faith knows that time is short and is turning up the evil. Tragically, people are falling into temptation –even God’s people, who should know better. We’re told in the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 to, “understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power…” We’re also told in the last part of verse 5 to, “avoid such people.”

      Of course, that is in the context of being whenever we can. There are obviously some people who act this way that we can’t avoid, but that doesn’t mean that we have to participate with them by sinning ourselves. We need to be careful not to allow ourselves to believe the lie that because we hurt so badly, solutions to do that, which we should not, is acceptable. It is not. God holds his followers to a higher standard (although we need to be careful not to be arrogant about it. It’s a mission, not something to brag about).

      We’re told in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 that “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” Easier said than done, yes. But not impossible as we put our hand into God’s.

  3. I’ve hurt the love of my life so badly and I just wish I knew what to do to fix the damage I’ve done to fix my family.

  4. Thank you for your ministry and this fabulous article. Can you provide resources you used for the following points in this article as I would like to read more about them:
    -Hurt people interpret every word spoken to them through the prism of their pain.
    -Hurt people interpret every action through the prism of their pain
    -Hurt people have the emotional maturity of the age they received their (un-dealt with) hurt.

    1. Gary, this teaching was posted on another web site that went dark a while back so this is all the info we have on what Joseph Mattera wrote on this particular issue. He has written on a wide variety of subjects throughout his ministry, and this is one of them. But you can find out more about this issue by obtaining the books that we recommend below the article. The book, Hurt People Hurt People will especially address a lot of those questions, and more. We’ve heard a lot of good things about that book and the other one that is recommended.