Listening to Victims Who Talk and Talk and Talk
Psalms 142:4-6 Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. (5) I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (6) Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!
Get me going on the subject of abuse and… well, I will end up talking too much. At some point this voice in my head starts going off, “Jeff, shut up. You are wearing these people out. They are going to think you are nuts.” It takes several warnings from that voice before I actually stop. Why?
Victims of abuse, and those who are seeing the terrible injustices done to them — especially at the hands of their own churches — don’t have a whole pile of people standing in line to listen to them. Most people don’t want to hear it because they don’t want to be bothered. Because it is just too unpleasant of a thing to think about. It’s a party-killer. “Excuse me, would you, I need to freshen up this drink.” Oh man, I’ve done it again!
But let me make a suggestion to all of us. One of the best things we can do for abused people is to listen to them. Listen to them for a long time. Then listen to them again, and again, and again. And I mean, really listen. They aren’t crazy. I told a friend not too long ago that for a long time I thought she was just a little — strange. Turns out she isn’t strange at all. She just doesn’t have many people who will listen to her, and since I have started to listen, I have learned quite a lot from her.
Victims of abuse — once they realize that you are willing to listen to and believe them — are going to gush. The dam bursts and here comes the story. I have come to the point of asking them for their stories. I love to hear those stories for several reasons. First, because I think it really helps them to tell it. Second, because it is good and right to be a person who takes notice of the oppressed. Third, because listening to them is to take care of their soul. And fourth, because these stories are lectures in the school of abuse. And I want to learn more.
They talk. They ramble. I mean, who wouldn’t ramble? How do you put years and years of terrible confusion and oppression into a neat outline? You can’t. They apologize for talking so long. They doubt that what they are saying makes any sense. Then they talk some more. And in reality, if you think about it, they really aren’t talking so excessively after all. Just how long does it take for a person to describe 35 years of suffering to you? Two hours? A day?
So, listen. And don’t think that you are listening to someone who is weird or who just likes to hear themselves talk. Don’t turn and go the other way when you see them coming. In fact, consider it an honor that they choose to talk to you. Because rest assured, there are scant few who ever have listened to them before.