I am writing this in order to reflect on a recent event; I’m sharing it because it is worthy of reflection.
I’ve been accused of hurting someone. I’ll withhold the details to protect privacy (this happened at work and involved a person I provided health care services to); but the complaint was serious, this person regarded my actions as an “assault”.
Of course to cause pain in the act of providing health services—well, that is not at all unusual. Of all things that evoke a compassionate response from me, seeing anyone in physical pain is the most powerful. If I cause pain (for example, in giving an injection), I am able to do so by holding in my mind the individual’s consent to the injection; the potential benefits of the intervention; and mainly, that pain from a shot is usually brief and easily forgotten. It does not cause suffering per se.
But I don’t reject this complaint; suffering is in the mind of the sufferer. I have had more than one medical encounter that has persisted in my memory as awful, or performed with inadequate compassion. I also clearly understand that the possibility of confusing a medical procedure with abuse or assault is always present. When I was told about the complaint (which was delivered in writing, I had no sense that the person felt this way during the encounter), I immediately felt that sense of deep shame that, however unintentionally, I’ve hurt someone in a way that created a lasting sense of harm.
I realize that we can’t always know when our words or actions cause pain, and how often very common actions or words offered in the present may be confused with assault or abuse that has occurred in the past. Still, when confronted with the situation, I am the one who must beg forgiveness.