Not too long ago, I read an interesting book called Tell Me A Story by Daniel Taylor. One of the most powerful parts of the book was when Taylor argued that it is essential to listen to the stories of others, because listening to stories is an important first step toward justice. He put it this way:
Our first obligation as receivers of stories is that we do in fact listen. Everyone, without exception, has the right to tell his or her own story. We are not obligated to approve that person’s story, but we are obligated to hear it. Too often in human history this basic right has been denied. A primary instrument of oppression is silencing. Specific methods include denying a people their language, the ability to read and write, a knowledge of their history, a forum to articulate their grievances and aspirations, and so on.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt a deep need to tell the story of what was happening to you, but no one would listen? I imagine this caused a deep sense of loneliness and pain. I bet you yearned for someone to sit with you and listen to your story. You needed someone to hear and acknowledge what was happening to you.
It is important to give all people the opportunity to tell their story. Individuals and groups who experience low levels of power and privilege (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities, women, LGBT individuals) have a difficult time having their voices heard. Often their stories are considered problematic to those who experience high levels of power and privilege, because their stories disrupt the status quo. But it is important to listen, and be open, because denying a person the right to tell their story denies that person their humanity.
Discussion: How can we work to help all people, especially those who experience low levels of power and privilege, have a platform to tell their story? How can we respond effectively when another person’s story makes us feel uncomfortable?