Jan 242014 35 Responses

You Hurt My Feelings

There is no greater trump card in today’s society than “You hurt my feelings.” It’s the phrase announcing that you have crossed the line. I am the victim; you are the perpetrator. (To see how this plays out in families or organizations, see: I Know Who Is In Charge of Your Family)

Everything must stop because you have gone out of bounds.

There are only two problems with this phrase:

1) You can’t hurt my feelings. That’s why they are called my feelings. I’m in charge of them; they belong to me. It’s my choice as to what hurts them. You do not control me. I can choose to have my feelings hurt by something you do, but you cannot hurt my feelings.

2) Maybe my feelings needed to be hurt. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was selfish. Maybe your action is offensive to me because I need to be offended. The funny thing about saying “You hurt my feelings” is that it implies “What you did was wrong,” but it only implies it was wrong because my feelings were hurt. Maybe your action was right even though I got my feelings hurt. Maybe it was my guilt or shame that led to the feeling of hurt. (See: Sometimes You Need to Be a Jerk)

“You hurt my feelings” is a phrase we should never use. We shouldn’t use it because it isn’t true. It’s a confession of our own mistake of allowing another person to control us.

Instead, we should start telling the truth:

  • “I was upset by what happened.”
  • “I was disappointed by your actions.”
  • “I felt hurt because of what you did.”

These are all true statements. They communicate the hurt while taking responsibility for ourselves. (See: If This Offends You, I’m Not Sorry)

Yet even if you could hurt my feelings, this phrase shouldn’t be used because it places feelings above truth. It gives the impression that we should honor feelings above all other things.

This simply isn’t true.

Feelings are important, but there are things far more important. Truth, value, justice, right/wrong are all more vital than a temporary emotion.

Instead of saying “You hurt my feelings,” we could say:

  • “What you said wasn’t true.”
  • “What you did wasn’t right.”
  • “This didn’t communicate the whole story.”
  • “That was not necessary.”

These statements value ideals which are more important than feelings. They don’t diminish feelings, but feelings can’t be debated. You feel what you feel. The horrific downside of making feelings as the ultimate trump card in society is that we are asking people to debate things which shouldn’t be debated. If what you did was right, but the action hurt my feelings and I think you are wrong because “You hurt my feelings,” I am forcing you to debate how I feel. It’s an impossible situation.

We should never debate the feelings of another. We should accept them for what they are. It is not our job to question, doubt, or change another person’s feelings. We should listen and value what another person feels. It is our job to question, doubt, or change our actions. But those actions should be determined by what is right, valuable, and true rather than what a person feels in response to them.

For More, See:

Top 10 Communication Posts

A Forgotten Sign of Adulthood

35 Responses to You Hurt My Feelings
  1. Carrie Hill Reply

    Wow! I have never thought about it quite like that, how true. I needed those exact words today, so thank you.

  2. glendakuhn Reply

    Thank you, Kevin, for stating this so aptly.

  3. Wanda Reply

    Marvelous! Too often we pass the responsibility to someone else for how we feel.

  4. Peggy Reply

    Feelings have no morality. They are neither right nor wrong. My actions in response to the feelings I have can be judged right or wrong, but not the feeling. Until we understand this and are able to own our feelings and learn to communicate what we feel in the right way, (not your hurt my feelings!) we have a generation of wimps trumping that card! Thanks for your blog on this.

  5. Carol Faver Reply

    I don’t enjoy hearing the phrases…”don’t be so sensitive”….don’t get yourself into a stew”….don’t get all down in the dumps….etc. Please don’t tell me how to feel. I take responsibility for my own feelings and they DO belong to me. Husbands are often guilty about doing that because they don’t want to see their wife upset, etc. I try to explain to Bob that he can’t make me happy OR sad, but how he reacts to what I’m going through is out of his control. We have lots of discussions about this and I feel it goes along with what you are stating Lisa.

  6. Carla Reply

    Perhaps you should also write an article for people who insist on telling others, “You shouldn’t feel this way.” That is also something you should never say.

  7. Kim Snyder, MS,LPC Reply

    I love this!!

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  10. Michael Makinster Reply

    Great article. Clear and concise. People need this information in a world where feelings are overvalued as a measure of truth and a basis for behavior. With your permission I’d like to print it out and use it in my counseling practice.
    Michael Makinster MA LPC.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you Michael. You are free to print it and use it. I pray it is helpful.

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  13. Janeane Reply

    “You are choosing to be upset by this, and it has nothing to do with what he did” – Said to me by a friend the day after I was raped.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Janeane, I’m so sorry for the insensitivity of your friend. Clearly, this post was not meant in that light. I would never imply and no one could ever infer a connection between your experience at the intent of this post. My apologies if there was any confusion.

  14. Janeane Reply

    Sounds like an article in the making, that is long overdue. Not just replying to you, but to a lot of people out there spouting this “nobody can hurt you” philosophy that has became the go-to for secondary wounder/bullies. My apologies for overburdening you with a task you may or may not be able to take on.

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  16. Name Reply

    1. People can still make you feel certain way. If you were born sensitive, there is no actual way to “stop it” from getting to you forever. Maybe it is your fault sometimes, but that doesn’t make it okay to offend someone.
    2. It’s just a way to express how you feel? If your feelings are hurt, then express it! It doesn’t matter how they were hurt.

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    Hi Kevin, I found this very interesting to read. thank you. I was wondering if you thought that the law should intervene when a persons feelings are hurt?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Anita, I cannot think of an example where the law should be involved regarding hurt feelings, but it does seem American law is headed that direction.

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  22. Leah Reply

    This could also be called “how to be a narcissist in a relationship.”

  23. Linda Scott Reply

    I do not agree with your assessment. People can, indeed, hurt someone else’s feelings and sharing that can be honesty, not manipulation. When one is blindsided by someone they trust, it is natural and normal to be hurt. Hiding those feelings is not healthy. If we are to get along with one another, we must be cognizant of the effects of our actions. Making someone solely responsible for their feelings is to marginalize them. There are very cruel and selfish people in this world and your article literally excuses them. I don’t buy it.

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  29. Sara Reply

    I was taught to be aware of my impact on others feelings, so that I could be responsible for my behavior…what you’ve just explained are the same irrational answers I’ve gotten for 35 years from my (just realized) narcissistic spouse that has kept me under his thumb ignoring my gushing explanations of how he is hurting my feelings! When I read this it makes me ponder if my husband is Emotionally Numb and justifying his distance by blaming me for showing “feelings” as if it is a criminal offense to be human. To ignore the obvious and deny your responsibility to your fellow human, makes you an ignorant human in my opinion.

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