NOTE: This is Part 3 of a 6-part series of posts. If you haven’t yet read Part 1 or Part 2, you can read them now: Part 1Part 2
We talked first about why we need morals and values and learned they’re important to us and others our whole lives. Then we talked about how we treat ourselves and others so they know we appreciate them and they are important to us. Today, let’s talk about what happens when we hurt others, about responsibility, and about respect. All these things make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Have you ever been hanging out with a friend and having a good time and then a third person comes along, and suddenly the other two friends are shutting you out? They’re acting like you aren’t even there? They talk to each other, but not to you?
That probably surprised you. You didn’t know what to think. And then you were upset. You felt like an outsider and as if you didn’t belong. They ignored you and that made you sad, or even angry. But what their actions really did was hurt your feelings.
When you exclude others, it makes them feel as if they don’t matter. As if you don’t care what they say or do or think. You’re telling them without using words that they are not important to you. And when anyone treats anyone else that way, it hurts.
Now if someone has done this to you, you probably weren’t eager to be around them. In fact, you might have avoided them because being around them reminded you that they had hurt you. And when something hurts us, we’re afraid of being hurt again. We want to avoid that—so we avoid those who hurt us, usually by staying away from them.
Think of this as a hot stove. If the stove is hot and you touch it, it burns you. That hurts and every time you see the stove, you remember how getting burned felt. You don’t want to touch a hot stove again. You know that if you do touch it, it’s going to hurt. So you’re more careful. Well, when someone hurts you, in a lot of ways it’s like touching the hot stove.
That’s not to say you should be angry or treat others unkindly. It is saying you remember the hurt and don’t want to hurt again. And that’s why you try hard to never hurt others. Because to cause someone else pain means you’re making that person feel a lot of bad things that you don’t want to feel, and we know we should treat others as we would have them treat us.
If you want others to be kind, then be kind. If you want them to be thoughtful, then be thoughtful. It’s never a good idea to deliberately hurt anyone. We all have feelings and ideas and we all want to be welcome and enjoy the company of others. To have friends, we must be friends. And friends never deliberately hurt friends or anyone else.
Sometimes we hurt others without meaning to hurt them. We are human. We make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes cause pain. We don’t intend to cause them pain; we’re not being mean. But the thing is, whether or not we hurt others on purpose, they still hurt. They still feel the pain. And that makes it our responsibility to make amends. When we hurt others, even accidentally, we have to accept the blame that is ours, do what we can to repair the damage we’ve caused, and apologize for the harm done.
We admit what we’ve done wrong to the person we hurt. We tell them we’re sorry. And we try to fix whatever we broke. The reason we should try hard to not hurt people isn’t just that we don’t want to cause them pain, but because there are things that are very hard to fix. There are also things that once they’re broken, they are broken and can’t be fixed. Fortunately for us, many things can be fixed. And the important part is the person we hurt knows we’re doing all we can to fix what we broke.
For a moment, let’s say someone hurt you and what is broken can’t be fixed. That doesn’t mean you can’t forgive the person anyway. When you do forgive them, that’s called grace. And it’s an honorable thing to do—to forgive. Because you feel better and the other person does, too.
The thing about grace is this: At some time, we all need it. We say something or do something that hurts someone we had no wish to hurt. Maybe someone we love and would do anything not to hurt. We all need the grace of forgiveness. So we all need to be willing to grant others grace and forgive them. If we do, maybe then, when we need forgiving, they’ll forgive us, too.
That’s being responsible. It’s being caring and compassionate, too. We all have to be accountable for what we say and do. When we’re wrong, we should admit it. And when we goof up and hurt someone, we need to accept that we’ve hurt them, apologize and do what we can fix the problems we created.
When we do these things we are showing our respect for the other person and for their feelings. We are also showing that we respect ourselves and our responsibilities.
When we make mistakes—and we all do make them—we admit them and try our best to make things right. That is the very best we can do, and most appreciate the qualities it takes to do them. It inspires others to respect us because we have earned their respect. And it proves to others that we respect them because we have proven it by our actions and deeds. That’s called having character.
Character is proving you have values and morals by the way you conduct yourself. By the way you behave. It shows others that you have thought about things like honesty and responsibility, respect and compassion, and those values mean a great deal to you. They are important.
So that’s why we try hard not to hurt others. When we do, we also hurt ourselves. So we take responsibility for what we say and do, we apologize and try to fix the problems we create, and that shows we respect the other person and we are worthy of the other person’s respect.
In three weeks, I hope you’ll join me for Part 4 of Why Morals and Values are Important. We’ll talk about patience and kindness and loyalty then. That will give you time to think about hurting others, responsibility and respect and to talk all this over with your mom and dad and see what they think.
If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, you can still read them. Here are the links to those articles: Part 1Part 2
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