I’ve been reading the social media responses of men who have been astonished by the outpouring of revelations shared by women in the “Me, too” campaign. Hearing about the ways women have been used, abused, and overpowered is painful, but it is essential that these veils be lifted.
Still, while it is commendable to publicly declare ones shock and sadness that women in our midst have been abused, bullied, or overpowered, I am reminded of the risk of jumping onboard with social media campaigns, writing a few heartfelt lines to show solidarity and leaving it at that.
It takes more than hitting the “Like” button to heal injustice. As with everything that matters, action is everything. Writing a post decrying abuse against women does little to heal long held pain if we don’t also step outside of our comfort zone to sit down—offline, without an audience—to listen quietly to the stories of our loved ones; stories that may be difficult to hear, or which may stir up our own discomfort.
I have witnessed the power of this in my own life, both in my profession as a therapist and in my personal life. No one remembers “what happened” with verifiable accuracy. But when we sit with someone we love and invite them to say the things that might lighten their heart— without minimizing or justifying, healing happens.
In Elizabeth Lesser’s newest book, Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most she describes the three hour conversation she and her sister had with a therapist, before donating bone marrow to help stave off her sister’s cancer. In those few hours, they listened to each other without defensiveness, acknowledging hurts from the past so that Elizabeth's stem cells would have the greatest chance of not attacking Maggie’s, or being rejected by her own. In that single conversation, burdens of a lifetime were lifted and love filled the space left behind. Her sister lived another year, describing it as the best year of her life.
I hardly know a woman—or man— who could not say, “Me, too.” We hurt each other sometimes—whether egregiously and intentionally, or simply out of our own pain and unconsciousness. It is hard to be human.
Thank you, men, for expressing your outrage on social media. Next steps? Listen to those who have bravely told their stories. Be patient. Ask questions like, “Is there anything else?”
Bearing witness to the hurts of those we love doesn’t make what happened go away, but being heard by those who love us is a powerful step toward healing.
Thank you for listening.