– John Pavlovitz
The other week, I listened to a woman speak about her problems for almost an hour. She’s been having an absolutely terrible year: severe illness for 6 months, emotional traumas, a bi-polar daughter who verbally abuses her, a stalking ex-boyfriend (like, real stalking…). Her husband had passed away years ago too, so she still holds on to the trauma of that as well. Despite this, she remains hopeful about everything, recognizing the growth behind these experiences and taking steps towards better self-care (which is why I felt compelled to provide support to her since she’s clearly trying her best).
She kept apologizing for unloading all of this on me, explaining that she hasn’t really been able to talk to anyone about it, which then got me thinking about how valuable the art of listening is. The only thing worse than a terrible experience, is one where you do it alone. Even though we all share similar experiences in our lives, we should remember that
not everyone actually has someone to talk to about them… Essentially I was a complete stranger but she still felt safe enough to express herself to me, which (of course) I was happy to do. As the saying goes, “we’re all fighting our own invisible battles” so I believe we need to keep this in mind, trying to be kind and compassionate whenever we can.
I think we are often too “busy” or distracted or consumed by our own lives, so we don’t take the time to listen to others as much as we should. Like, REALLY listen. Not with the sole intent to respond, or to turn the conversation back to ourselves, or with one eye on our phones… But giving someone your full attention, without judgment or criticism so that they can feel safe enough to express what they’re truly feeling. To go beyond the superficial and get to the deeper parts of their selves, which I believe is how we were meant to connect (“Holding space” is probably the more accurate term, which you should all look up!).
Simply being with someone through their pain, not necessarily to try and light up their path, but to just provide space and remind them that they aren’t alone in their experience, is an incredible gift. I don’t think people are always looking for advice or to be “fixed” per se, but just the opportunity to express themselves and to be heard; to know that their experiences matter in some way.
Granted, I don’t think we have to listen to everyone (or that it’s even possible / healthy). Some people really do just love the sound of their own voice or take energy from others without giving back, so use your discretion in deciding who to invest your energy into (because it IS an investment). Boundaries / your own well-being are the most important!
But if you do feel a connection with someone and are able to hold space for them, I think it’s needed now more than ever. There are a lot of hurting people out there, and ignoring / shaming / blaming them really isn’t going to do much good for us in the long run.
Never underestimate the simple power of presence, my friends. In the end, we all heal together, so let’s go easy on each other ❤️