We all know stories; stories passed down through our families, fables of our cultures, gossip about the neighbor. How do we know when we can share a story; have a teaching moment, use someone as an example either negative or positive? This is the deal, unless it’s our story, we have to be very careful. I like the “Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.” I am pretty open with you about my story, but I don’t tell all. Maybe I will someday, but that will be my choice…it’s my story.
A friend called me a couple of weeks ago and said, “I want to tell you a story,”. She began to share some family history and after about thirty minutes of discussion, she said “I think I know someone who may have been abused. How do I get them to tell me?” Well that’s the crux, you can’t get anyone to tell you anything. They need to be in the right place to trust and to share, and you might not be the person they tell their story too for any number of reasons.
Many people have the ability to bury their abuse and the pain of pulling it out might be too much for them. We have to respect that. Survivors are doing just that, surviving and their process is not ours to judge. I’ve noticed that surviving is like an addiction in a way. If you stay away from the subject, you’re good, even though it might be lurking in the background, but I can imagine that for some, dipping your toe in the past might cause you to jump in, unable to swim, only gulping water. Many victims, who haven’t achieved survivor mode, feel guilty and ashamed, because they’ve been told that they are guilty and shameful. Some have told their story and weren’t believed, or worse yet shunned for their openness. Many have buried themselves in addiction of drugs, alcohol, food, or abusive behaviors leveled at themselves or even become abusers themselves. So many stories buried behind covers, that for some reason or another can’t be opened. It’s so sad.
“What can I do?” was her next question. What a wonderful person, to ask “what can I do?” You can set an example of not telling other’s stories. Be a safe place, listen and be trustworthy. It’s not enough to say your trustworthy, BE trustworthy. Have you ever heard that saying that if someone has to tell you they are something, they probably aren’t? We set the examples; we screw up, but we have to try hard to set the example. I have had many people tell me their stories, after I have shared mine, or said I was writing this blog. They feel that if I can trust them, they can trust me back. I don’t forget their stories and only share them generically.
We we all need to tell our stories when we are ready, and for some people that may be never, but be ready……the person they choose to share it with, could be you. It’s an honor to be that person.