No it is not a typo, and it is not meaningless repetition. It is an answer to a difficult and challenging question: Why do we so often hurt one another?

Why are we, at times, mean, judgmental, negative, and critical? What is it in the human condition that gives us such a propensity to wound even those closest to us? What makes violence such an appealing option for the human race?

There are probably many answers to these questions. One answer is that:

Hurt people hurt people.

When I am mean, critical, negative, and judgmental, it is because I am acting out of that place within myself where I carry an unacknowledged or repressed experience of pain. I lash out because the pain that lies coiled at the base of my spine is suddenly triggered; I feel driven to retaliate in a futile attempt to protect my faltering sense of my value as a person.

It is tempting to view aggressive behaviour as a sign of strength. But, on the contrary, when I go on the offensive I am not acting from a place of strength and security. A confrontational approach does not come from a true inner sense of power and security. When I am aggressive, abrasive and inappropriately forceful, I am struggling to cover over my deep inner sense of insecurity. I am seeking to avoid facing my own pain and refusing to see my shadow. And, whenever I refuse to acknowledge my own inner darkness, I am doomed to act unconsciously from that shadow.

I attack because I feel vulnerable. I criticize in an attempt to rebuild my faltering sense of self. I judge others because I have already judged myself and found myself lacking. I am aggressive because I am unsure of my identity and frightened of my own sense of vulnerability. I leap to the offensive in an attempt to avoid having to look at the void I am afraid to see that I feel at the centre of my being.

Hurt people hurt people. When people are truly strong they do not need to attack.

So how does this idea help me in relationship to people who hurt me, or in relationship to myself when I feel hurt or when I hurt others?

When I see that a person by whom I feel hurt is a hurt person, it is easier to extend towards that person the compassion and grace that alone have the capacity to set us both free. When I see that my hurtful behaviour comes from my own experience of pain, I find compassion for myself. As I extend true compassion to myself, I connect with that deeper inner security, strength and peace that feels no need to lash out at every perceived offence.

To be compassionate means being willing to look honestly at myself and at others. When I see clearly, I see that we are all hurt. We are all broken; and the sharp edges of our brokenness will at times clash creating more pain until we acknowledge the wounds that cause us to hurt and to be hurt.

When I feel attacked, I need to understand that my attacker is acting out of their own insecurity, fear, anxiety, and hurt. This is not a bad person, not even a cruel person. This is a hurt person, a fearful person, a frightened person, a sad person. This is a person who is unwilling, or unable, to bear their own sadness and therefore feels compelled to to inflict pain upon others. The person by whom I feel hurt is a person just like me, seeking to navigate the uneasy territory of my own fragility often with inadequate tools.

When I embrace my own wounds, the wounds others attempt to inflict upon me, lose their power. I cease being overwhelmed by the pain of others. I may respond vigorously; but my response does not pass on pain. I am free to live from a place of true strength, which feels no need to retaliate.

True strength can be forceful when necessary but most often looks like gentleness, openness and deep listening.