To be understood or not to be. . .

Nele Morton is without a doubt one of my most favoritest authors. Her book, “The Journey is Home” is powerful, insightful, and rife with quarks of wisdom that have nested in my heart and nettled and nurtured me over the years. One story in the book is about a group of women in an early consciousness raising group. Some of the women in the group had been abused by their husbands or boyfriends. Many of those women had never admitted or examined their experiences of abuse. But in the safety of the group they began to relay and relate to their own stories. The group asked, “tell us what it was like for you?” One by one, each woman told her story. She told it in her own way, for as long as she choose to speak. And the group listened to each one. The group listened and heard each one. In the words of one of the women, “you heard me to life.” You heard me to life. The power of truly listening and hearing. Morton invites us to re-imagine the opening lines of the book of John: God so loved the world that s/he heard it into being.

That story has written itself across my heart. When I was teaching social work, I would relate the story to my students to impress upon them the importance of listening and fully hearing the experiences and needs of their clients, of listening with their hearts, brains and hands.

Then today I came upon this story in Paul Brian Campbell’s blog People for Others. Campbell says that he found the story inRichard Cole’s book Catholic by Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church, and Embarked on the Adventure of a Lifetime.

Let me tell you a story about Eddie. We met in a recovery program years ago. and he would tell this story about himself. Once when he was trying to stop drinking. he found himself in a psychiatric hospital. He was broke. He’d lost his job. His wife had left him. He was at the end of his last rope.

Every morning he would talk to a psychiatrist. After several sessions the doctor said, “Eddie, you’re all over the map. You need to focus. I want you to go off by yourself and think about this question: What are the three things you need in order to live? The three things you absolutely have to have to keep living.”

Eddie said okay, and he went off to think. A few days later, he came back with his answer.

“First of all,” Eddie said, “I need to breathe.” (He was taking the question seriously. He had no choice at that point.) “Second, I need to drink water. I know I can go without food for weeks. I’ve done it. But I need water all the time.”

“Last,” he said, “I need to be understood. If nobody understands me, I think I’ll die.”


So, think for a minute about the importance of listening carefully and truly hearing each other, it can be a powerfully healing and transformative act. We all need to be understood. Infants need to be touched and cuddled in order to stay alive and grow. Without adequate touching and cuddling, infants literally die of a dis-ease called failure to thrive. I suspect children and adults need to be heard and understood in a similarly powerful way.

And, then, think if you will for another minute, what are the three things you need in order to live? It would be wonderful if you would share them with us here in the comments section?

Thanks! Be well!!