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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Tidd

Tom Lake and The People We Hurt

Updated: 4 days ago

tom lake

My book quote today is from Tom Lake, Ann Patchett's latest. Good ol' Ann. Always good for a thought-provoking quote.

"She stayed with me after the rest of them had faded, maybe because we remember the people we hurt so much more clearly than the people who hurt us."

I had to read this one a couple of times after my initial "wow" to figure out exactly WHY this quote resonated with me so much.

First of all, I think it's true. Yes, we remember the people who hurt us, but probably not as clearly. I don't think I remember every single person who has hurt me in my lifetime, but I'm betting I could name the people I know I've hurt pretty easily.

And think about this - this is a true downer - there are probably more people out there who have been hurt by us than we even realize. I know that I've been hurt by off-hand remarks made by someone who doesn't even know it. So, it stands to reason that I've probably done the same.

I think some of this has to do with the fact that we're naturally harder on ourselves than we are on other people. It's not easy to forgive and forget something that you always carry with you and it's much easier for our inner voice to say, "You're a terrible, terrible person" than it is for us to voice that about someone else. If you know you've hurt someone, chances are you've played that scenario over and over again in your mind, cringing or, if you're like me, sometimes even saying, "No!" out loud in the dark in the middle of the night as if that will change the past.

This quote also makes me think that, unfortunately, sometimes hurting someone else is necessary. If you've been able to go through life without hurting ANYONE I would venture to say you need to work on your boundaries. When we end a relationship or tell someone that something they're doing is not acceptable to us, it's very likely we've hurt them. But the other choice is to accept that behavior. Even if walking away or standing up for ourselves is done in a gentle way, I don't know if it's possible to do that without inflicting some hurt.

Something else that came to mind when I thought of situations when I know I've hurt someone else is that many of them came from being hurt first; the other party had done something or a series of things that hurt me and when I finally said "no more" they were hurt. (For you Four Tendencies nerds out there, that's because I'm an Obliger and often suffer from Obliger Rebellion.)

Life is made up of a series of transitions and growth. We make mistakes and we learn from them. Or, as I heard Matthew McConaughey say in a Smartless podcast episode, "One time is a mistake. More than one time is a decision." Alright, alright, alright.

ANYWAY, Ann has once again said something that I think I've always known, but she said it better than my brain did. She's always doing that.

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