Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Hurt People Hurt People

People Manipulate out of Brokenness

I have a heart for people who are broken.

I was broken for many years so I can understand where people are coming from when they behave in certain ways.

Hurt people hurt people.

Their reactions stem from past experiences that led them to certain beliefs that they accepted as truth. They are actually just preconceived ideas projected onto others to protect their ego.

Now instead of taking it personally, I recognize it for what it is and love the person anyway.

When you know where people’s reactions to you are coming from, it is much easier to not take it personally.

It’s really not about US at all. It is about THEM and what’s inside them coming out and projecting onto us.

So how have I been manipulated recently by hurt people who have wanted to hurt me?


A friend told me she didn’t want to be friends anymore. I accepted this as truth — this is what she said she wanted and I honored it.

A month later I contacted her out of the blue because I was thinking about her. I sent a simple message saying “I’ve been thinking about you and hope you’re well. No need to get back to me — just wanted to send some good thoughts your way.” I was even unsure about sending this message because I didn’t want to dishonour her.

She responded very quickly with “I’m SO glad you contacted me. When I said I didn’t want to be friends I just wanted to see if you’d fight for our friendship.”

Hence, she was manipulating me to see if I would react a certain way. She was hurt and wanted to feel that I truly loved her.


Another friend recently backed away from me. When I had an opportunity I asked him why?

He said he backed away from me because he wanted to see if I would quit on him and leave the friendship myself.

He said “If you quit on me because I am behaving a certain way, it will be on your shoulders and I don’t need to accept responsibility for quitting myself because you did first.”

He wanted the decision to leave to be on me so he could walk away scot free.

I appreciated his honesty about this and I recognized it as manipulation by someone who was hurting.


A mentor said many unkind things to me in the name of personal development. I was striving to be better in certain areas of my life and I didn’t understand why the feedback had to be so harsh.

Although I didn’t understand completely, I knew for a fact that she was hurting — and we know what hurt people do.

She later said that she would say things to me that she was actually feeling about herself. So when she said I wasn’t being authentic she was actually thinking that she wasn’t being authentic. This was interesting because in my experience as a coach I have learned that this a typical coaching phenomenon — we tell others what we really want to say to ourselves.

Often coaches listen back to their coaching calls to hear what they said to their clients because they are projecting what they feel about themselves onto the client.

This is very typical of people in general — we can only see in someone else what we have in us. When we say something to another person it’s good to check and see if we are really just projecting what we feel about ourselves. When we point the finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at ourselves.


An acquaintance was acting strange and very wishy washy with me, often sulking in a passive aggressive manner.

I asked him about it (in several different ways to elicit an honest response). He finally admitted that he wanted attention — he wanted to see if I would reach out to him when he didn’t make much of an effort. He felt if I reached out to him, it would make him feel worthy.

Again, this is typical behavior from people who are hurting. They want to feel better so they will wait until their ego is gratified — that feeling of the ego being filled up enables them to feel positive about themselves.


I had a friend who would never contact me first. She always waited for me to contact her (she also did this with men and other friends in her life).

After a few years of friendship, she finally told me that it made her feel wanted and loved when people contacted her first.

She was so set on feeling good about herself through other people reaching out that she didn’t reach out to anyone first.

She was hurting inside and dealing with insecurity about who she was as a worthy human being. Her way of filling up was to wait for others to reach out to her. It served her for a long time so she did it. She still hadn’t been able to break the cycle with me even after a decade of friendship.


These are only a few examples in my life of manipulation from people who are hurting — I’m sure you have many of your own.

We know they don’t truly want to hurt us — they are just protecting themselves and attempting to avoid mental and emotional pain.

However we don’t need to stand for it do we?!

So what do we do about this behavior in others?

Do we accept it or shut it down?

In my experience, there are positive ways to handle this behavior:

Step 1: Recognize it for what it TRULY is
Step 2: Create a safe space for them to be authentic
Step 3: Have open, honest communication by asking questions and sharing your feelings
Step 4: Choose whether you want to move forward with the person

The trick is to recognize it and not play into the behavior. Don’t rescue, accept or buy into how they want you to react. Don’t give them your power! One way to win is to love them where they’re at and be okay with the outcome.

Talk to them in a safe, supportive environment and ask questions, attempting to understand their feelings and why they act that way. In my experience, people often know why they do the things they do and if you ask enough open-ended questions they will tell you.

When sharing your own feelings, speak from a place of “I”. For example “I feel sad when you push me away” or “I would really love to be in relationship with you and want to understand what causes the behaviour.”

You have a choice as to whether you want the person in your inner circle or on the outskirts.

At times, I choose to love people and keep them in my life.

Other times I know can love people best from a distance, releasing them to God and praying that they will find healing and peace within themselves.

Only you know which choice is best for you in any given relationship.


Remember that hurt people hurt people and it is not about you.

Unless you have hurt the person in some way, know that they are acting from a place of pain and a yearning desire for love.

Hurting people often don’t love themselves enough so they look for love and approval from others.

We can always offer love to them — either in close proximity or from further away.

We get to be careful as we teach people how to treat us — no matter how much a person is hurting, we deserve to be loved in a way that feels good.

Hurt people hurt people, however they hurt themselves more. We don’t need to feel hurt in the process as they take themselves down.

We can rise above — and hopefully bring them up with us.