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What Hurts

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
What Hurts

Last week my daughter got a scratch on her finger the size of nothing at all, and the next morning she was complaining that it hurt so bad and she needed a bandaid, immediately. As with every morning, I was rushing to get us all out the door and so I very distractedly said something completely dismissive, to the effect of: “You’re fine; that doesn’t hurt,” probably without evening looking at her. Then I heard her say, in a very quiet but steady voice, “Mommy, how do you know what hurts if you’re not me?”

How do you know what hurts if you’re not me?


Umm…. Wow—Oww!

I took a breath, looked her in the eye, and said: “You’re right, honey. Only you know how you feel. I’m so sorry,” as she nodded at me with that wise look/sigh only young children master—that look that says, “oh you poor poor adult who has forgotten once more all the rules and important things”

Of course while I was marveling at how obviously brave and brilliant and astute she is, I was also pretty certain that she really was just angling for attention and a princess bandaid.

But still. She could not be more right. I can never assume to know what hurts for someone else, just as I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me what hurts for me.

It got me thinking about all the ways that I dismiss others’ feelings—how often I get impatient if someone is upset by something that I don’t think they should be upset by, or how I brush off people’s physical complaints if they seem overly exaggerated or dramatic, or how I try to gloss over people’s hurt feelings so we can hurry and get to the sunny resolution. And that’s just not really fair at all. Because just because I don’t see the hurt, that doesn’t mean the hurt isn’t there. It’s not my job to determine the validity of the hurt; it’s my job to simply be there. To say: “That must be so hard.” To say: “I’m so sorry.” To offer a hug. To offer a princess bandaid.

How can you be there for what hurts today?


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.