On Sacred Ground
The Power of the Spoken Word in Healing and Relationships
People love to talk. They will talk to their friends, themselves, their pets and sometimes their plants. But people are not always able to talk about the things that matter most. When they finally have someone across from them, they talk and talk about things of value and importance to them. Most of my time spent in counseling is spent listening. I don’t have all the answers and my training and experience allows me to notice themes, but everyone’s story is unique. Their life has a texture and variation that is all their own. Clients come to therapy thinking that their story is not unique and that they are not special compared to others. They struggle to find the words to describe their inner world, and they say things like, “I never talk this much,” and tell me, “I’ve never told anyone this before.”
In therapy, I see men and women find their voice. They claim their right to be heard and seen. I often tell those I work with that, because of what is shared and brought to light, we stand on sacred ground. It is often a place to encounter God’s healing and mercy. It is an opportunity for God to speak into areas of pain and confusion without form and void, where they feel abandoned. I wonder if this is why in the Genesis creation account, the earth was created through speech, and Jesus is referred to as the Word.
Our words have power, too. Through our conversations, those I work with are empowered to strive toward and become who they were created to be. Their words bring them into realities they have hid from in fear or never noticed or seen. In speaking, we bring the mystery hidden within ourselves into existence and make what was hidden, present. When the treasures of our mind and heart are revealed through sound, there is a deeper layer of meaning added as our inner thoughts expand to the lives of others, taking on a life bigger than us, and therefore cannot be dismissed as something insignificant or just in our minds.
In Abandonment to Divine Providence, there is a portion of the book that speaks to the reality that in our lives, we continue the work of living and telling the Good News of Christ just as the followers of Christ do in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. If we can actualize who we are called to be, we can in turn help one another find a voice, and we can live in communities where every person can pursue the path laid before them.
Couples, parents and individuals ask me for communication advice. So much conflict is based on misunderstandings and arguments based on what we think other people are thinking or motivated by. The lies that we tell ourselves about others cannot cloud our relationships if we bring them forth from the shadows into the light. In order to create this space of vulnerability, we sometimes have to be the first to share. We need to plant the seeds of transparency in our relationships. Once others feel safe to venture out into vulnerable speech, then my advice is simple: Be interested in what others tell you. While you listen to them, let them know that they are the only thing that matters while they are speaking. Paraphrase and summarize (not parrot) their message to show understanding. In listening, you create an environment of acceptance and validation that will be reciprocated to you and will transform your relationships.