A Word on Trauma and Listening

Judith Herman in her work, Trauma and Recovery, says, “No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster her recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in her immediate best interest.”

This is why listening to another person’s story or experience of trauma without judging it is important. Sometimes the first expression of a survivor’s power is the strength and courage to give their experience a voice. When we demean, dismiss, or devalue another’s voiced-experience we take their power away and perpetuate their trauma.

So whether it be racial trauma, or other forms of societal trauma, or personal/individual trauma, let’s commit to listening well.

De-center yourself. Resist the urge to justify another person’s experience. Resist the urge to pacify or qualify their story. Just listen. Be with them in their story. Consider it an honor to read it (if social media) or hear it (if across the table). Hold it close. Don’t feel the need to “identify” with it. Just hold it. If on social media, don’t even feel the need to comment beyond, “Thank you for sharing.”

In doing so, you are creating space where healing becomes just a little more possible for them–for all of us.

And for the record I am still learning to how to listen, too.

About Fred

Fred came to serve greater Williamsburg and WCC as lead pastor in October of 2010 and is grateful to be a part of the family. He is a husband, father, certified trauma professional, S.T.A.R. (strategies for trauma awareness & resilience) practitioner, community organizer, TEDx alum, founder of 3e Restoration, Inc. and co-owner of Philoxenia Culture LLC. He received his B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and his Master’s of Religious Education in Missional Leadership from Rochester University. Currently he is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology in at Northern Seminary in Chicago. Fred has also served as an adjunct professor for Rochester University and Regent University where taught courses in philosophy, ethics, leadership, pastoral care, intro to Christianity, and ethnography. He has also served as a guest lecturer on the subjects of racialized cultural systems, poverty, and missiology at various universities, such as William & Mary and Oklahoma Christian University. Fred has authored on book (Racialized Cultural Systems, Social Displacement and Christian Hospitality) and several curriculum offerings, including The FloorPlan: Living Toward Restoration & Resilience. Fred enjoys hanging out with his family anytime, anywhere. He is deeply grateful for how God graciously works through the Church in all her various forms, despite our brokenness. He is passionate about seeing the last, least, and lonely of every neighborhood, city and nation experience God’s in-breaking kingdom, and come to know Jesus as King. Oh, and his favorite season is Advent and Christmas. Fred is a founding member of the board of directors for Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a member of the leadership team for Williamsburg's local chapter of Coming to the Table, and a member of Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network's Racial Trauma Committee and Training Committee.
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3 Responses to A Word on Trauma and Listening

  1. K. Rex Butts says:

    I have found this to be true when it comes to dealing with grief and pain. So many times people want to say something to make it better but words will never do this. Just say “I’m sorry” or “Thank you for sharing” and listen.


  2. Pingback: Do Good, Not Harm | Inside This Guys Head

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