You Always Hurt the One You Love

In 1944, groundbreaking jazz quartet The Mills Brothers topped the charts with their catchy hit, “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” In addition to their extreme awesomeness, unbelievable talent, and tenacity for their craft (in spite of the self-defeating ignorance of the Jim Crow era), I reckon the song became so popular because it’s so relatable:

You always hurt the one you love

The one you shouldn’t hurt at all

You always take the sweetest rose

And crush it till the petals fall

If it isn’t in your head yet, here. You’re welcome. I defy you not to put it on repeat.

I mean, come on. Who can’t relate to that? What husband and/or father doesn’t retreat to the den late at night with this ballad crooning in his head with remonstrating mockery? I remember hearing this song for the first time, and even as a kid I was thinking, “Yeah! True! Why is that?”

Well, The Mills Brothers tell us why:

If I broke your heart last night

It’s because I love you most of all

Maybe we hurt the ones we love because we love them most of all, and we want them to be better than our perception allows. But that’s precisely the issue: the problem isn’t with them, it’s with our perception of them. It’s our assumption that we know what is best—not just for them but for us. If they acted differently, we would love them more. But would we?

Look at St. Thomas. You should’ve heard his third and final snatch of dialogue from John 20 last Sunday in church, which earned himself the eternal nickname of “Doubting Thomas” (because “Unbelieving Thomas” doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Thomas was a serious disciple before the incident in John 20. He really was. He didn’t steal from the ministry’s purse, he didn’t cut off anyone’s ear, he was just caught up in his own perception of things. When Jesus wanted to go back to Bethany (to raise Lazarus) even though the authorities there had just tried to stone him, Thomas was totally game: “Let us go, that we may die with him!” Then when Jesus informed the disciples that he was going away to prepare a place for them and they knew the way, Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” He wanted to follow Jesus, but not understanding the path of the cross he couldn’t likewise understand Jesus’ words. Then the infamous incident on Easter Sunday when he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God,” upon seeing the risen Christ solidified Thomas as a staunch and serious disciple.

We always hurt the ones we love, but Jesus always loves the ones who hurt him. There’s no indication that he is angry at Thomas, or yelling, or about to reject him as he himself was rejected. He does get in his face, but it’s only to show him his hands and side. He gently—yet dramatically—corrects Thomas’ perception of him by asking him the rhetorical question, “Is it really because you have seen that you believe?”

We, like Thomas, hurt Christ with our denial. We always take the sweetest rose and crush it ‘till the petals fall. We should know better. But if we broke his sacred heart last night, it’s because we love him most of all. Come Lord Jesus, change our perspective.