How to Escape the Cycle of ‘Hurt People Hurt People’

Friendship is inspired by Jesus. Throughout one of the most obvious examples of friendship in
the Bible, that of Jonathan and David, the parallels are clear.

Jonathan served his friend David, even at great personal cost to himself, just as Jesus did when
he took your place at the cross.

When David was in need, Jonathan walked 30 miles to warn him. Jesus, of course, came much
farther than that. He crossed the gap between eternity and earth, between deity and humanity.

Jonathan gave up his right to the palace to put David in; Jesus purchased your place in the
palace at the cost of his blood.

Jonathan was not the rightful heir to the throne; Jesus was, and he gave it up for you anyway.
Like Jonathan, Jesus laid aside his royal robe and took off the belt of his rights and the sword of
his judgment and gave them all to you, even though he was the rightful heir.

And when you turned your back on him and betrayed him, he refused to walk away from you,
even when he had every right to. What a friend!

Jesus’ friendship enables you to be this kind of friend, too. Crawford Loritts says,

How can you be this kind of friend? You must be overwhelmed with the friendship of
Jesus Christ. Jesus gave his own life, his own sword, his own robe so that you could be
saved. And in doing so, he transformed you.

But what about when your friends disappoint you? When you feel the need for a friend but they
just let you down? Everyone feels this sometimes, even David. In the Psalms, he records multiple
times when a friend or close family member disappointed him.

Few things hurt worse than a friend’s betrayal. Maybe, in your experience, it wasn’t a full betrayal.
Maybe your friend was just unaware of your needs. They didn’t call when they should have. They
didn’t reach out. They were so preoccupied with themselves or their families that they didn’t seem to
notice when you were hurting. Listen: Every earthly friend disappoints—even the good ones, even
the “Jonathans.” And that’s where you can lean on Jesus not as your example of a friend, but as your
actual friend.

Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who
sticks closer than a brother” (ESV). It’s hard to get closer than a brother. Most brothers feel an
obligation to be there. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother—because this friend
was not only there for you, sympathizing with your pain; he took it in your place. He’s a friend that
will always shield, strengthen, sustain, and shape you when others fail.

Experiencing friendship with him enables you to be a healthy, complete, giving, and forgiving
friend. Psychologists tell us that our default relationships with others are shaped by the
relationships of our past—most notably, that of our caregivers. When those core relationships are
defined by neglect, hurt, or betrayal, we become the same sort of person to others. The cycle
continues: Hurt people end up hurting other people.

Maybe that’s you. You find yourself unable to forgive a friend who has hurt you. You’re constantly
nursing how others have let you down. Your woundedness from past relationships makes you a
bad friend to others. You wish you could change it, but you aren’t sure how.

All of that can change, psychologists say, if we form an attachment to a different, loving
individual. If one person models a different kind of love toward us—selfless, giving, forgiving—it
can transform the way we relate to everyone in our lives. Just one person. Just one friendship.

Whether we have that one in the flesh, we can all experience the love of that One through Jesus.
And when you find completeness and healing in him, and experience him as your faithful friend,
you’ll be able to more easily forgive those who hurt you. You’ll find a way out of the “hurt people
hurt people” cycle. All from the friendship of one selfless, giving, and forgiving Person.

As with all things in the Christian life, healthy friendships start with Jesus.