Can I hurt others without getting hurt?

Perhaps the toughest human emotion to deal with is the feeling of being hurt. This feeling only escalates when the one who hurts you is also the one you love the most. Most people try to deal with hurt by hurting the other person. The result is an ugly relationship. How do you deal with this complex phenomenon with dignity?

Porcupines are known for coming together in order to avoid cold and experience warmth, but when they are together their sharp quills hurt one another. Similarly, when humans being, who are relational animals, come together to seek warm love, they too end up hurting others with their sharp words and unpleasant actions.

Three stories from the Mahabharata can give us some insights about the hurt phenomenon:

1. Drona refused to educate Karna realizing that Karna came with a bad attitude as a student and a competitive mentality to be better than Arjuna. Karna felt extremely hurt because Drona hurt him quoting his low birth as a disqualification. Lifelong, Karna lashed out on the immediate cause of his hurt, Drona, and the remote cause of his hurt, Arjuna.

A hurt person lashes out not so much in response to what is happening outside but in response to what is happening inside. The inability to deal with something negative within themselves causes them to hurt others. Karna was just unable to accept the fact that he was not born in a royal family. And all his life he spent in trying to prove how he is better than Arjuna. He bore such envy towards Arjuna that even after learning that he was born of Kunti, he refused to accept Krishna’s request of joining the Pandavas.

2. Amba’s hatred towards Bhisma turned into fiery wrath that lasted two lifetimes. She spent her entire life trying to destroy Bhisma but she managed to destroy only his peace. Reborn as Sikhandi, she did managed to destroy him but not without personal loss.

A person who wants to hurt others actually ends up hurting himself. Just like the screaming of a person with a thorn in his hands cannot be taken seriously as he is screaming more out of pain than out of anger, so when a person is hurt, his inability to handle the pain of hurt often comes out in the form of hostile words and violent actions. All of Amba’s efforts to hurt Bhisma stemmed from the extreme amount of hurt she had felt by his apparent selfish insensitivity and uncompassionate stubbornness.

3. Drona was hurt by Drupada’s insensitivity. He in turn hurt Drupada by humiliating him through his disciples. Drupada returned that hurt by begetting a son that caused Drona’s death. Drona’s son, Asvatthama, in turn avenged his father’s death by killing Drupada’s son, Dhrstadyumna.

A hurt conscience always hurts. But any hurt caused is actually a hurt felt. Both Drona and Drupada aimed at hurting the other. Of the two, who faced greater loss is difficult to point out, but what is obvious is that by attempting to hurt the other, they were in reality whipping their own selves.

Just like paramedics handle an external hurt or wound with gentle care, similarly a trained intelligence has to delicately handle a hurt heart. An ocean full of water cannot sink a tiny boat unless it enters it. Similarly negative experiences cannot hurt a person unless he allows them to seep into his mind. A crown that hurts is not worth wearing. Similarly a thought that hurts is not worth storing.

Subha Vilasa Dasa is a motivational speaker and a spiritual lifestyle coach. He is also the author of the six-volume series Ramayana — The Game of Life (Book 1). His email: