Being called to bear witness

Being seen and heard is a precious experience.

And every person needs and deserves to feel this way, at least at some time in their lives. It is part of what enables us to be fully human.

Yet, we know this is not a universal experience.

People do not feel seen and heard for many different cultural, political and personal reasons.

Therefore, one of the most heartening responses to my book Quiet Disruptors: Creating Change Without Shouting was when people said they felt seen and heard in its pages.

However, this week, it went a step further.

Kate Reid, a colleague in an online group, talked about her passion for bearing witness to others in and through her work. Her background is in broadcast journalism, and now she is humanising the working world through her work with leaders and teams.

This is even more than naming and listening. As crucial as this is.

It conjures up a sense of being actively alongside and identifying with the person. Of listening with the intent to honour and create space for the depths that rarely surface. For empathy and emotional connection beyond the words. Of recognising more than is seen or heard in passing.

Or, as another friend observed, for the sense of resonance. (I am sure Kate could explain the neuroscience behind this…)

Such bearing witness enables us to feel safe sharing the deeper dimensions we might be wary of revealing for fear of judgment. And in it, we find the things that are precious or sacred to us can breathe and come to life.

Because here’s the thing: this is a very human experience. I don’t think an algorithm can replicate it.

This level of being known is immensely precious. Especially for those in vulnerable situations, it is powerful and necessary.

And this isn’t about time, money or even proximity. We can do this with one another online.

But it is personal. And requires our presence, with its vulnerable fullness.

This is not ‘doing good’ because we can always tell what that feels like!

Instead, it is being real.

Bearing witness to a fellow human being with honesty and generosity.

Pause. See differently. Re-story 🌿

This week

A few good words

Or perhaps more than a few… This week, my friend Ed Brenegar published his conversation with me from early October on his YouTube Podcast. Our original conversation was a joy, and hearing it being broadcast was an astonishing experience of being witnessed. I hope you enjoy it too.