It is all too easy to inflict pain if you do not understand the effect of your actions on another person. And to understand another person one needs to put an effort, one needs to ask the right questions. Certainly, in some cases a person may want to make somebody suffer. But often the real depth of suffering is ignored. Ignorance in this sense does not mean innocence. A bully who laughs at an obese child does not really think about consequences. This bully exists in the moment, and her actions are shaped by herd mentality, peer pressure, fears, parents’ behavior – so many reasons! This bully does not understand, does not want to understand the victim’s feelings. Ignorance is, of course, not an excuse. However, it is important to understand that in this case the aggressor is not “evil”. If the bully was told about the damage her actions cause, if somebody helped her to find other ways of dealing with the fear of being rejected by the peer group – this act of violence might never take place again.
People ignore others’ pain all the time. They do it because they don't have time to get into details, they do it because they want something real bad, they do it because they are told do, or because nobody explained to them what these actions do to others. Same as with the cycle of hurt, the lack of awareness is not the reason to do nothing in order to stop the abuse. The bully must be stopped. But instead of just punishing, we should teach her, and to do that that we need to understand the causes of her actions.
I came across a term once – “moral education”. I am not sure whether I like this exact term and whether I agree with all the ideas behind it, but I surely agree with one of them. We should teach young people not only to write and read, but also not to hurt others. There is this good slogan against sexual violence. It says: “Society teaches people how not to get raped, it must teach not to rape”. Raising people’s awareness about pain they can inflict with their careless selfish actions should be a priority of educational system if we want to live in society based on love and respect, not on violence and punishment.
Finally, it must be said that the cycle of hurt and lack of awareness can co-exist in one person. If somebody is caught up in their own pain and hurt, they are likely to ignore the pain they themselves are causing.
Don’t let people hurt you. But if you are being hurt, you can use your empathy to understand why it happened/is happening. Whoever hurts you, might not understand what they are doing, or might be suffering themselves, or both. You might not be able to help them, you might not want to - that is fine. But try to understand their actions for your own sake. This way you can make sure that you will not get into your own cycle of hurt, and that you will be able to move on with your life more easily.