Sorry about yesterdays faux pas with this post - my technical knowledge hit the internet wall of doom.
Madeleine L’Engle writes – “I look back at my mother’s life and I see suffering deepening and strengthening it. In some people I have also seen it destroy. Pain is not always creative; received wrongly, it can lead to alcoholism and madness and suicide. Nevertheless, without it we do not grow.” – Walking on Water.
I’ve been pondering a question lately. Well several questions if you really must know, but one more than another these days. I’ve pondered this so much in fact, that I’ve lost sense of the original thought.
Have you ever done that. Thought about something for so long and so hard that you forgot what you were really thinking about? If not – lucky you – if so, welcome to my world.
The question began simple enough – Why is it easier for us to forgive the victim than it is to believe something less than desirable about a friend or a peer.
That question led to another
If no one believes the victim, and rather than being protected she is discounted and then forgiven, have we compounded her pain? Are we victimizing her yet again?
If we come across such a woman who has been doubly wounded - and we will if we are paying attention and really listening - how can we as women or as ministry hands, bring her back to a place of creative strength.
Pain received wrongly can lead to madness, I know because I’ve been there – fortunately for me – the trip was short-lived - I found my “gumption” as my grandmother used to call it. That get-upness that comes from either my Irish genes or remembering my heritage and hearing my grandmother’s voice in my ears telling me to get up. My grandmother had gumption coming out her ears – while she did go down from time to time, she never stayed there.
Small town living is different from our busy lives today. Back then women surrounded each other and spoke healing and truth until we got our gumption back. Today? We walk as lonely travelers more often than not. schizophrenic voices crying from street corners, desperate to be heard – every time someone walks past – deaf to the cry – the madness grows deeper.
Knowing the mirror I used to look into, I now see other faces who seem almost on the verge of madness themselves – pain received wrongly. Someone has to stop and listen.
I read blogs like Flowerdust, Randy Elrod and Carlos Whittaker, who dare ask those painful questions – where have you been wounded. You should see the responses – it’ll break your heart. They are the listeners – the stopping point. A place where madness meets grace, and healing begins.
What gives them the courage to ask? They’ve tasted the same double edge sword of being victimized, discounted and forgiven – someone listened to them.
Which circles back now to my first thought – why is it easier to forgive a victim than believe a less than desirable truth about a friend or colleague? – I don’t know – but it is. False accusations abound and we have to be discerning and sometimes we blow it, pure and simple.
And more personally – even if we do blow it from time to time – how can we as ministry leaders be listeners to another person’s truth?
For me I see three points – you may see others.
Ask: Where have you been wounded?
Listen to their answer without discounting their reality however it’s perceived.
Affirm: I’m sorry that happened to you. – this first listening is not the place to say “are you sure that happened to you?”
One of my favorite quotes from Group is “thank you for sharing, next.” – Being heard matters more than you know. Those three simple steps do more to calm the voices screaming to be heard than you can possibly imagine.
Being heard – is a wonderful step in ministering to victims.
Can we begin by asking that same question? Where have you been wounded? and then shut up and let them talk. When they are finished, can we tell them “I’m sorry that happened to you.” – Can we be an affirming voice first and foremost.
The rest will come – the healing, finding a place to forgive, remembering to get back up – We can’t be the only person to listen to them – for some people they’ll need more help than we can give, and we can refer as needed. There is much work to be done that we cannot do on their behalf, in order for pain to be fully served – we at least however, give them a launching pad to try therr wings.