Conversations with Wounded People

When you have conversations with people, particularly about contentious topics, I’ve noticed something. If someone is wounded or hurting, then the conversation really doesn’t work. You can end up in screaming matches. They can sulk and play the martyr. Thus it’s very important to find out early on if you are dealing with a wounded person. Here are three tell-tale signs:

1. Emotional reasoning. That is, logic that takes emotion as its base. These are always relativistic arguments. Here the truth of the matter changes, can never be determined with certainty, or the individual can never be appeased, because he or she has elevated emotion to a point that he/she feels is all-important. Such thinking leads to revenge and not to justice – revenge, because the person so aggrieved can only be made happy after they have dominated their enemy, like Achilles dragging Hector’s body around the campsite three times. This is primal and juvenile.

2. Borrowing hate or history from other people – having a group identity, not an individual identity. There are fewer weaker claims than saying that “my people” or “we” have been oppressed for centuries, and fewer things are more risible. That is because the individual has not existed for centuries, however, it is clear that the group identity from which the individual derives his purpose and sense of self is being borrowed from others, and usually it is from others long dead, in different times, and in different cultures. This is a fake and constructed identity based on imagining what others in other times have felt.

3. The individual tries to assign blame to you for things other people have done to him or her. This goes hand-in-hand with a sense of group identity. Because you are of that other tribe or group which is responsible for the suffering of the individual, then you have no right to speak. You are guilty, goes the logic, even though you have done nothing. Guilt shuts down conviction and courage, so if the individual can make you feel guilty, he or she has silenced you.

Engaging in discussion with wounded people is useful only to the degree that you can show them their true need, which is to be healed. No logic will work. All you can do is get them to understand that they are speaking out of brokenness and that until they are healed, they will continue to seek false cures which involve forcing others to make them feel better by one way or another. Conversely, real healing always begins with individual action, which is an acknowledgement of need and then seeking God to heal them.

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