Hurting vs Harming

"There is a difference between hurting and harming" -Konnie Nelson


You step into the meeting knowing that the conversation is not going to be fun. It is time for your team members quarterly review, and his work has been sub par for the last few months. After multiple conversations, you are forced to take a hard line with him and reveal what you believe are his weaknesses in a very forward manner. The conversation happens quickly, and you can tell that he is hurt by the words by his body language and general lack of response.  

Does this sound familiar? If not now, it will eventually.  

In a leaders life, there will be times when we disappoint, offend, and hurt others. Sometimes this will happen accidentally, and sometimes this will happen intentionally. It is important to distinguish the difference between hurting someone and harming them. 

Hurting is only for a time.  

When you hurt someone, you are inflicting pain. Similar to a small cut on the finger. The pain is sudden and the wound is open. In the illustration above, the words that are spoken have probably hurt the team member. But hurting, much like a cut, is only for a time and will heal. The feeling of pain will be filed away and used as a beacon of remembrance for the person. 

Harming lasts a lifetime.  

When you harm someone, you inflict so much damage that a person will no longer be the same. This can be over a length of time, or in a moment. Physically speaking, harming is much like a broken leg that doesn’t heal. For the rest of that persons life they will walk with a limp. When you harm someone, you are damaging them for the remainder of their life. It is not a lesson, it is a lifelong punishment. It is not a temporary pain, it is a lifelong wound. 

A shepherd will break the leg of a sheep that wonders away from the heard too often. For the following weeks, the shepherd will carry that sheep on his shoulders and tend to it. The bond they make during that time of hurt is strengthened, and when the sheep is healed, they will often be the closest follower of the shepherd. 

As a leader, you must determine if you are hurting someone for their growth and development or harming them out of anger or frustration. The words you say and the actions you take can irreparably damage or they can act as a lesson.  

The temptation here is to stay as far away from pain as possible in order to playcate harming someone, but this is too far for the pendulum to swing. Great leaders use hurt as a tool and not as a weapon. 

If you have found that you harm people more than you hurt, or you have trouble with the concept of pain as a tool, it might be time to reach out for some more in depth coaching. Click the link below to schedule a time with one of our coaches to help you walk through this pivotal tool.