In sharing my story so publicly, I have discovered something along the way. The same people I share my story with often feel safe sharing their own stories with me.
Even as a child, I remember feeling incredible compassion for hurting people. I pursued a degree in social work earlier in my life, and I went back to school a few years ago to become a licensed pastoral counselor.
While I have learned many skills along the way, I have found one skill in particular to be one of the most valuable:
When people share their stories or their pain with us, they are often not wanting us to try to fix them. They are often not even expecting you or I to provide a solution. They are often looking for someone to acknowledge their story.
They want a listening ear.
I spent many years in classes where I learned some valuable information for sure. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down with another woman who nervously told me her story, though, for her to say, “Thank you so much for listening to me. I feel so much better even just finally being able to talk about this with someone I knew wouldn’t judge me. I guess I just needed someone to truly listen. I feel like a thousand pounds have lifted off of me.”
All I did was listen.
Certainly, there are times when people are asking for advice or counsel, but this has shown me time and time again how powerful listening really is.
Compassionately listening to others can be a healing balm for their hearts.
Are you a listener?
I am a listener by nature, so it’s not difficult for me to do. I also know that it is easy for me to detect whether or not someone is truly listening to me, or if they are instead planning their next sentence while I finish mine. It’s the people who are truly listening that I feel safe sharing my heart with.
I think there can be so much pressure to try to fix someone or offer solutions, when sometimes they just need a listening ear.
Many women who tell me their stories are women who have been through situations that are not easily talked about. Their stories are often filled with shame, and they have never told anyone what they have been through until they talk to me.
This happens because they have seen me be vulnerable with a story that is often judged, misunderstood by many, and very sensitive in nature. They may have very different stories, but they have similar threads of fearing being judged or misunderstood by many, and very sensitive in nature.
Listening to others sharing stories they may not have shared before (or maybe shared with negative consequences before) can help heal their hearts.
For those of you who have a difficult time listening or those who have felt inadequate because you “only” listen, I want to encourage you to see listening as a way of helping to draw out the pain and poison in people’s hearts. This is often what happens!
As people feel comfortable sharing with you (and remember to keep confidential what you have agreed to keep confidential), the pain in their hearts will often show up in tears and sometimes even anger. I encourage you to continue listening at this point. Don’t try to shut their feelings down or stop what they are saying so you feel more comfortable.
Also, those who are comforters can often have difficulty letting people cry. It can almost seem cruel to not stop the process by stepping in to comfort them. Pray that the Holy Spirit shows you when to step in and when to wait.
Tears can be incredibly healing.
I say all of this today to encourage you to listen the next time someone tells you their story. They are trusting you with such delicate information. Don’t feel pressure to give answers, to try to fix them, or even to come up with a statement.
Truly hear what they are saying and relax, and then watch the Holy Spirit work.